The Timing of Israel War Talk

I’m happy that John, the Blogger Formerly Known as ABL, and DougJ commented on the Todd Akin “legitimate rape” comment. I have to admit, that just left me speechless. I mean, literally, speechless. I mean, WTF?

Anyway, I’ve been intrigued by the recent war talk coming out of Israel. As you’ll recall, less than a week ago, outgoing Israeli civil defense minister Matan Vilnai made public statements about Israel’s preparedness for war:

In the Maariv interview, Vilnai said “the home front is ready as never before.” Nonetheless, he said the country must be braced for heavy casualties in the case of conflict with Iran.

Vilnai said the government has prepared for the possibility of hundreds of rockets and missiles falling on Israeli population centers each day, with the expectation of 500 deaths.

“It could be that there will be fewer fatalities, but it could be there will be more. That is the scenario that we are preparing for according to the best experts,” he said. “The assessments are for a war that will last 30 days on a number of fronts.”

There has been some debate in strategic studies circles about whether this represented a warning against war or whether it was an effort to diminish expectations of catastrophic consequences in order to justify an attack on Iran. It sounds bad — war on “multiple fronts,” “hundreds of rockets and missiles” — but when you get right down to it, a month of conflict and 500 deaths could easily be seen as a small price to pay to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

The latter interpretation certainly gains plausibility given remarks by Vilnai’s replacement who today made news by arguing:

Israel faces an existential threat from Iran for the first time since the founding of the state, new Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter said Sunday, within hours of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei once again dubbing Israel a “cancerous tumor.”

Dichter, sworn in to his new position on Thursday, made the comments at a changing of the guard ceremony at the ministry’s headquarters in Tel Aviv with his predecessor Matan Vilna’i.

At one level Dichter was responding to outbursts from Ahmadinejad and Khamenei over the past few days. But then again, the Iranian leaders are idiots. But they are long-standing idiots. Iranian idiocy is, in a sense, a constant in this situation.They are pretty consistently saying idiotic things about Israel.

What intrigues me is that the ebb and flow of rhetorical outbursts and tensions isn’t following any sort of clearly identifiable strategic calendar. Iran has not made any new breakthroughs in the past few months. On the other hand, anti-Iranian sanctions and efforts continue to coalesce, slowly but surely. So why do the Israelis insist upon responding in tit-for-tat fashion to rhetorical outbursts? And why the sudden increase of war talk that has even drawn comment from senior U.S. military leaders?

I don’t know the answer, but I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t some effort going on to manipulate American domestic politics. Ratcheting up tensions clearly creates talking points on Fox about how Obama has not been a strong enough supporter of Israel, and plays into Romney campaign rhetoric. I may be seeing something here that isn’t there, but the timing of a sudden uptick in war talk seems to me to be motivated as much by political developments in the United States as by anything going on in the Middle East.

Now, I can predict that one response to this post will be folks calling me a naive idiot, that of course this is what Israel is doing. Okay, fine. But I’m more interested in trying to figure out what the smart response is to this, both in terms of policy and messaging. Let’s say you’re an adviser to Obama. You assess that Israel is trying manipulate the election by ratcheting up tensions. What do you do about it?

 






97 replies
  1. 1
    Mino says:

    Duh, you think Americans want to see another Republican wage a war in the ME afer the debacle of Bush? At least Obama has a brain.

  2. 2

    Of course it is

    somebody had to play the idiot in this show…

    Keep quiet is what I’d tell the campaign

  3. 3

    Of course it is

    somebody had to play the idiot in this show…

    Keep quiet is what I’d tell the campaign

  4. 4
    Comrade Jake says:

    Good post. I’m glad someone is bringing attention to this.

    I don’t know the answer, but I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t some effort going on to manipulate American domestic politics.

    I’ve had the same thought, because based on everything I’ve read – the Israeli Air Force has zero chance of knocking out any capability Iran has developed.

  5. 5

    Oooh, 2nd and 3rd-obviously I have no life

  6. 6

    You ignore it publicly, and privately make it clear to Bibi that if he starts a war with Iran, he’s fighting by himself. Which will infuriate Bibi beyond belief and make him swear to take you down come what may. Which appears to be the situation we’re looking at.

  7. 7
    Linda Featheringill says:

    What would really be nice is some sort of progress in the relations between Iran and the rest of the world.

    But other than that, I agree with those who got in before me: Keep quiet about it unless specifically asked and then respond with a well thought out comment about trying diplomatic pressure.

  8. 8
    lacp says:

    An effort to manipulate American domestic politics? Well, shut my mouth. Who could have known?

  9. 9
    MattF says:

    I think the real problem is that, for Israel, there’s no downside to reckless chatter about attacking Iran. And doing it at random intervals with no apparent immediate motivation keeps everyone worried. The risk, boring to say but necessary to point out, is that always talking about war creates a momentum of its own and a set of expectations, and if there’s some unexpected event, shit may well happen. See, e.g., Summer of 1914.

  10. 10
  11. 11
    MattF says:

    I think the real problem is that, for Israel, there’s no downside to reckless chatter about attacking Iran. And doing it at random intervals with no apparent immediate motivation keeps everyone worried. The risk, boring to say but necessary to point out, is that always talking about war creates a momentum of its own and a set of expectations, and if there’s some unexpected event, shit may well happen. See, e.g., Summer of 1914.

  12. 12
    JPL says:

    The Guardian has a story about Israeli terrorist that the government ignores.
    The story links to a larger article in Foreign Affairs that is worth a read. Any day now Romney will accuse the President of being soft of the terrorists.

  13. 13
    lacp says:

    An effort to manipulate American domestic politics? Well, shut my mouth. Who could have known?

  14. 14
    Wapiti says:

    Just from reading the one Jerusalem Post article, it looks like they’re responding tit-for-tat. In their defense, Iran is a whole lot closer to them, and whatever blather comes out of the mouth of Iran’s president is in the news in Jerusalem; they sort of have to respond to it, if only to say they’re ignoring it.

    but when you get right down to it, a month of conflict and 500 deaths could easily be seen as a small price to pay to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    I don’t get this; I don’t see how the Israelis expect to attack Iran in such a way to put an end to its nuclear ambitions. Any significant attack is going to drive home to the Iranians that they’ll never be safe until they get nukes.

  15. 15
    Yutsano says:

    @Comrade Jake: Israel cannot attack Iran without both American support in the way of refueling tankers and American diplomacy to soothe whichever Arab country the Israelis choose to fly over. They know full well they cannot attack on their own. So Bibi is both playing up domestically and trying to influence the American election so that support will be implicit instead of asked for.

  16. 16
    NCSteve says:

    My read is that it is a deliberate, and deeply cynical, attempt to induce a freakout by the oil market that runs up the price of gas, and causes a downturn, in advance of the election.

    Idiot sophomoric CR frat boys playing with matches in a room full of explosives. The thought of halfwit Mitt writing them blank checks terrifies me.

  17. 17
    👽 Martin says:

    What intrigues me is that the ebb and flow of rhetorical outbursts and tensions isn’t following any sort of clearly identifiable strategic calendar

    Didn’t the previous Israel ‘outreach’ effort into Gaza coincide with the 2008 election and leadership change?

    Timing seems about right for them to repeat that. I don’t think they’re looking to influence our elections – rather to take them as a window of opportunity where we are too politically distracted to do anything – or during transition, to be able to act quickly enough to stop them. Even if they are assuming Obama wins, and the transition is minimal, Hillary has said she won’t return as SOS. There’s going to be transition enough even in that case.

  18. 18
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    I may have to go to the RaptureReady site to see the nutcases totally cream in their pants and finally PRAISE THE LORD, JEEEZUUUSS IS COMING!

  19. 19
  20. 20
    mamayaga says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: Yeah, I was also thinking a private talk in a quiet room, but in addition pointing out the electoral college reality for Mitt as it stands now, and reminding Bibi that second term presidents don’t have their hands tied by politics the way first termers do. Not that the American gov’t would ever resort to veiled threats, mind you.

  21. 21
    Yutsano says:

    Jesu Christe fix this damn blog JC!!

  22. 22
    Poopyman says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    Which appears to be the situation we’re looking at.

    I assume you mean by the actions of the Israeli agent Sheldon Adelson. Sure -wish-hope there was a communications trail between him and Bibi.

  23. 23
  24. 24
    Haydnseek says:

    Where have you been? For several weeks, there has been intense speculation that the only reason this is happening now is because of the presidential race. The Villagers have been batting it around, as well they should, as this is something that is more important that Paul Ryans abs. Some feel that Bibi is putting the squeeze on Obama, forcing him to fight alongside Israel if the balloon goes up, or be thought weak on defense in general, and an unreliable ally of Israel in particular. I’m surprised you’re not ahead of the curve on this one. It’s been a big deal for quite awhile. I don’t want to be a dick about this, but really, bad show Bernard.

  25. 25
    MattF says:

    I really didn’t post that four times. Honest.

  26. 26
    KXB says:

    War talk is also a handy way for Israel to get more military goodies from Uncle Sam, a point made by MJ Rosenberg. “Don’t attack Iran, and we will pick up the tab for all your anti-missile defense systems.” Golda Meir called this “the shopping list.” That makes Israel truly a part of the Middle East – I am reminded of reading stories of how after Gulf War I, American soldiers were re-installing gold fixtures in Kuwaiti palaces. Get what you can out of the U.S.

  27. 27

    @Poopyman:
    I mean that Bibi has specifically supported Romney and denounced Obama in ways that are unprecedented and have shocked the Hell out of the Israeli populace.

  28. 28
    af says:

    Juan Cole had a post about this very thing this morning.

    http://www.juancole.com/2012/0.....obama.html

    Obviously, the threats are a form of blackmail. They want something from US President Barack Obama, and this wild talk is the way they think they can get it. Their war talk is a form of blackmail. It gives the Republicans ammunition against Obama, since they can say America’s close ally thinks Obama isn’t doing enough. Obama wants the traditionally Democratic Jewish vote and the campaign donations of wealthy Jewish Americans, and Netanyahu is trying to hurt him.

    There’s more at the link.

  29. 29
    Schlemizel says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: I think that is probably as good as you can expect. Perhaps publicly reiterate support for Israel while telling Bibi you might share intelligence with the Saudis. Let Bibi know that not only will you not support his stupidity you will work behind the scenes to embarrass him.

  30. 30
    Cassidy says:

    Sweet Jeenus these guys see existential threats under their fucking beds. How’s about you man up and worry about real physical thread? Fucking pansies.

  31. 31
    hilzoy says:

    “It sounds bad—war on “multiple fronts,” “hundreds of rockets and missiles”—but when you get right down to it, a month of conflict and 500 deaths could easily be seen as a small price to pay to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”

    Probably true. What a pity that war would not, in fact, end Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It would just set them back a bit while (probably) making them more resolved than ever to get nuclear weapons.

    A war would be a very large price to pay for that.

  32. 32
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Before I comment, FYWP! Damn, it’s broken.

    Let’s say you’re an adviser to Obama. You assess that Israel is trying manipulate the election by ratcheting up tensions. What do you do about it?

    I think Frankensteinbeck @6 pretty much nails it. No public comment (just ignore it) but via the backchannels make it clear that the US is under new, non-fascist management now that doesn’t believe in wars of aggression by ANYONE. ANYONE includes Israel, unless you’ve got other ideas about that.

  33. 33
    cat48 says:

    Bibi has been demanding Obama attack Iran for over a year. He’s given several speeches trying to convince Israeli’s that Iran is the “New Holocaust” and he alone must deal with it. Someone from the Pentagon or the State Dept. or Obama’s own personal team is there every week trying to talk Bibi off the Ledge to prevent him from bombing Iran b/c the US would have to get involved b/c Israel cannot finish the job themselves.

    Bibi knows b/c of the US election, he has extra leverage and he’s deploying it every way he knows how. I’m not Jewish but I read about Israel a few times a week b/c they’ve been Obama’s biggest foreign policy problem throughout his presidency. Personally, I think Bibi himself is our biggest existential threat. He wants a war & he promised his Dad who died a few months ago………

  34. 34
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Ha! Got back a WP error that I’d already said that! After it had posted the post THREE TIMES!

    There’s something seriously wrong with the commenting system, and the something is not the existence of m_c or VICTORY! or derf or Knockabout or any other commenter.

  35. 35
    Cermet says:

    Is this Israel’s way, after it attacks, of getting Iran to fight back so they can nuke Iran? If so, they will, sooner or later be destroyed themselves. Hope we make it VERY clear that nukes by Israel will guarantee their own destruction in the future. These chickenhawks in Israel are gonna get a lot of people killed. Hope the smarter Israel’s prevail.

  36. 36
    jwb says:

    That this scenario would be in play during the election has not exactly been a secret going on two years now. I’m sure the Obama team has this gamed out as best as it can with multiple contingency plans. Bibi seems less confident that he can pull this off than he seemed a couple of months ago. It makes me wonder what is going on behind the scenes (or rather behind the behind the scenes).

  37. 37
    fubar says:

    A thought provoking article, and along similar questions I’ve had in the past. What exactly drives the cycle of “bomb Iran” / “Israel is getting ready to pre-emptively defend themselves” talk?

    I’m not so sure it is Israel trying to influence US politics so much as neoconservatives surfacing. That group identifies as much with Israel as the US. Many are dual citizens. And they only have one diplomatic tool – submit to us or we will kill you. And they get a boner just thinking about it. Lastly, they will never have to risk their lives as they would never serve (they think talking about going to war with another country is patriotic duty enough).

    Can’t decide if Israel really thinks Iran is an ‘existential threat’ though. They have certainly become more right wing, but not sure they want to open the world of hurt that would be an Iran war. And they have to know that the whole 30 days is just bullshit. Attacking Iran could knock them, and the region, back 40 years. Unless they have some kind of super-duper Entebbe raid sure thing, I don’t think there is any chance they attack Iran, ever with US backing. But, if they are quacking in their boots about the chance of an Iranian nuke, who knows?

  38. 38
    BillinGlendaleCA says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: The FYWP on this post had almost made me want to start drinking again. It’s nearly unpossible to read.

    BTW, VDE, I think I saw derf on an earlier thread.

  39. 39
    Lockewasright says:

    I think Israel is looking around at a changing situation in the neighborhood (Iraq, Syria, Green Revolution) and figuring that it’s an opportune time to weaken the regime in Iran.

    I keep telling the saber rattling republicans at work that the vulture/voucher ticket hasn’t got one minute of foreign policy experience, while Biden has tons of it and the President has been a particularly successful commander-in-chief.

  40. 40
    Geoduck says:

    Ditto all the comments about this clearly being aimed at the US election.

    And my saying this will of course jinx it, but I’ve never had any problem with multiple posts. I read on one thread that installing NoScript might help.

  41. 41
    Brachiator says:

    Anyway, I’ve been intrigued by the recent war talk coming out of Israel

    I am intrigued by the war talk coming from everywhere, including Hezbollah, which is guaranteeing that it can rain missiles down on Israel. It makes predictions about no more than 500 Israeli casualties sound ridiculous.

    What is frightening is all the official assertions that any war against Iran can be safely managed, contained, and targeted. A local talk show host here in Southern California trumpeted his military background and his sources as he droned on about how the Israelis were going to surgically imapair Iranian communications and ability to mount any counter response. I had to turn the fantasy off after a while.

    I get the impression that hard liners want to do more than influence the American election. I think they want a war while Syria and Egypt and Iraq are weak, and that they fear that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will take over the military and forge an alliance with Iran.

    And so, they are looking for a win win situation. They believe that they can count on American support if Romney wins. But if it looks as though the Democrats will win, then it might be worthwhile to force a conflict and in turn force Obama to support any Israeli action.

    But the downside is that a war will not ensure Israel’s safety and will only further destabilize the Middle East.

    This is the world’s stupidest game of chicken.

  42. 42
    Bernard Finel says:

    @Haydnseek: I was referring specifically to the uptick in chatter over the last 5-6 days actually. But carry on.

  43. 43
    Heliopause says:

    the Iranian leaders are idiots. But they are long-standing idiots. Iranian idiocy is, in a sense, a constant in this situation.They are pretty consistently saying idiotic things about Israel.

    Why do you say this? You don’t think that within the context of their situation saying these things makes perfect sense? How would the regime have survived for over thirty years, in the face of the unremitting hostility of the world’s most powerful nation, if they were simply “idiots?”

    Let’s say you’re an adviser to Obama. You assess that Israel is trying manipulate the election

    Ah. The congenital incapability of seeing anything that happens in the world as not being all about Obama.

    I doubt this has much, if anything, to do with Obama vs. Romney. America’s support of Israel has been utterly bipartisan and there is absolutely nothing in the words or actions of Obama to indicate otherwise, and Israel’s leaders surely recognize this. With their rhetoric they’re simply reminding everyone on both sides of the aisle where things stand.

    What do you do about it?

    If your policy is the correct policy you simply and honestly iterate your policy. No?

  44. 44
    Mr Stagger Lee says:

    @Brachiator: And say good-bye to the world’s economy. Saudi Arabia has said no way for Israeli jets to fly over their territory, the gulf states are afraid that their Shia citizens will ape out and torch the oil fields. Of course never mind to the Israel uber alles and their Raptureist Christians that the Armed Forces of Iran are not your 1980’s but tanned, well rested, and very much better armed thanks to the Russians and the Chinese thank you.

  45. 45
    4tehlulz says:

    @Lockewasright: If Syria was stable, this whole war scare probably doesn’t happen.

    As it is, Bibi might be looking at map and being very tempted of flying over Syria rather than Turkey to get to Iran.

    Lastly, if this does happen, and the Israeli leadership honestly believe that a downpour of missiles will lead to only 500 deaths (!), they are the dumbest motherfuckers in human history. Israeli missile defense may work on glorified mortars from Gaza but I doubt its effectiveness on SERIOUS BUSINESS from Iran and Hezbollah.

  46. 46
    Ben Franklin says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    As you’ve said, the server seems to be the problema. I suspect a fund-raiser in the offing.

  47. 47
    srv says:

    Shock Doctrine isn’t just a US thing, ya know.

    This is a ploy to maximize concessions.

  48. 48
    mai naem says:

    I suggest Israel turn to China for help in their fcuking war. We have no more money for war. When Bill Kristol and his neocon buddies decide that we need a tax hike and support a massive tax hike on their rich fcuking buddies like Sheldon Adelson and Paul Singer, then maybe we can consider another war. The war store is closed for business mofos.

  49. 49
    Amanda in the South Bay says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee:

    As much as I think it’d be a horrible decision to pre-emptively attack Iran, i think their conventional forces are the least of anyone’s concern.

  50. 50
    Haydnseek says:

    @Bernard Finel: Fair enough. I’m a bit touchy on this subject, but still. I should have taken a different tone. You’re a good FP’er. Sometimes we expect a bit too much, I’m afraid. Thank you for being a gentleman in your response, I clearly was not in my original comment.

  51. 51

    Meanwhile back at the Sea of Galilee:

    The FBI probed a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee that involved drinking, numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers, top leadership staff – and one nude member of Congress, according to more than a dozen sources, including eyewitnesses.
    __
    During a fact-finding congressional trip to the Holy Land last summer, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) took off his clothes and jumped into the sea, joining a number of members, their families and GOP staff during a night out in Israel, the sources told POLITICO. Other participants, including the daughter of another congressman, swam fully clothed while some lawmakers partially disrobed. More than 20 people took part in the late-night dip in the sea, according to sources who took part in the trip.
    “A year ago, my wife, Brooke, and I joined colleagues for dinner at the Sea of Galilee in Israel. After dinner I followed some Members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit,” Yoder said in a statement to POLITICO. “It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress and [for] any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize.”
    __
    Travis Smith, Yoder’s chief of staff, told POLITICO “Neither Congressman Yoder, nor his staff, have been interviewed by the FBI.”
    __
    These GOP sources confirmed the following freshmen lawmakers also went swimming that night: Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) and his daughter; Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and his wife; Reps. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.). Many of the lawmakers who ventured into the ocean said they did so because of the religious significance of the waters. Others said they were simply cooling off after a long day. Several privately admitted that alcohol may have played a role in why some of those present decided to jump in.

    Et tu, Ben Quayle???

  52. 52
    JGabriel says:

    Bernard Finel @ Top:

    You assess that Israel is trying manipulate the election by ratcheting up tensions. What do you do about it?

    Does Likud have a headquarters we can attack? I’m all for Israel, but those Likudniks are really ticking me off.

    .

  53. 53
    dmsilev says:

    @Southern Beale:

    “After dinner I followed some Members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit,” Yoder said.

    I just hate when that happens. I’m always forgetting to put on my swimsuit before jumping into the nearest large body of water.

  54. 54
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Yutsano:

    Jesu Christe fix this damn blog JC!!

    @Yutsano:

    Jesu Christe fix this damn blog JC!!

    You think asking only twice is going to get his attention? C’mon Yutsy.

  55. 55
    General Stuck says:

    Good post

  56. 56
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @BillinGlendaleCA:

    I think I saw derf on an earlier thread.

    ¡ ZEON HO !

  57. 57
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Mino: For the first six weeks of any given war, yes. America, Hoo-yah! Rally round the flag! Cue up the Lee Greenwood….

    Later, not so much. Later, however, is after the election.

    The GOP will even off-shore its wag-the-dogs…

  58. 58
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Southern Beale:

    Several privately admitted that alcohol may have played a role in why some of those present decided to jump in.

    My illusionz, they are shattered.

  59. 59
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Southern Beale:

    By the way, when I visited the Sea of Galilee, all I did was eat loaves and fishes in a handy restaurant.

  60. 60
    Cheryl Rofer says:

    I think Frankensteinbeck has it pretty much right. I’ve been trying to follow last week’s hysterics from the Israeli leadership, and what Frank says makes sense. Those guys are acting like there’s no tomorrow and no reason to continue the relationship with America: Ehud Barak is either making it up or revealing classified information when he talks about an American intelligence report. Either way, he’s not making his American governmental friends very happy.

    Jeffrey Lewis tries to figure out if there’s a report. Here’s what I’ve written on the subject. You’ll see some overlap between my piece and Frank’s surmise.

  61. 61
    quannlace says:

    For the first six weeks of any given war, yes. America, Hoo-yah! Rally round the flag! Cue up the Lee Greenwood….

    It’ll all be over by Christmas.

  62. 62
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @quannlace: Not before all the holiday specials celebrating our absent warriors, it isn’t.

  63. 63
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @quannlace:

    Home before the leaves fall.

    And other famous last words.

  64. 64
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Southern Beale:

    By the way — and I know I’m going seriously off topic here — but this kind of sloppiness on Politico’s part just annoys me:

    Many of the lawmakers who ventured into the ocean said they did so because of the religious significance of the waters.

    Sorry, but it’s a lake. “Sea” is a translation error, and “ocean” is just plain wrong.

    Grrrrr.

  65. 65
    Maude says:

    @quannlace:
    Didn’t the Brits say that about WWI?

    @SiubhanDuinne:
    What? No skinny dipping?

  66. 66
    👽 Martin says:

    In other weapons of mass destruction news, Curiosity used it’s laser for the first time today and it worked fantastically. NASA/JPL is batting 1.000 so far.

    Interesting that after a century of worrying about martians coming to earth with their robots and ray guns, we’re the ones with the robots stomping around Mars with the ray guns.

    Take that fictional invaders! USA! USA!

  67. 67
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Martin: Wait till Curiosity unleashes the drones….

  68. 68
    Brachiator says:

    @Mr Stagger Lee:

    And say good-bye to the world’s economy. Saudi Arabia has said no way for Israeli jets to fly over their territory, the gulf states are afraid that their Shia citizens will ape out and torch the oil fields. Of course never mind to the Israel uber alles and their Raptureist Christians that the Armed Forces of Iran are not your 1980’s but tanned, well rested, and very much better armed thanks to the Russians and the Chinese thank you.

    I don’t see the Iranian Army, by itself, as being able to mobilize against Israel.

    But, worse case scenario, any attempt by the US or Israel to put troops into Iran would be insane and would meet stiff resistance.

    But you are right that the impact on the economy would be immensely negative.

    @Bernard Finel: Good post. I would hope that there are strenuous efforts on the part of the Obama Administration to defuse the situation and to counter the war talk.

  69. 69
    some guy says:

    rogue terrorists regimes like Israel can’t be reasoned with, they only understand force.

    maybe ask Bibi, in front of the IDF, how confident they are that their so-called anti-missile defense shield will cover the illegal colonists in Ariel and Gush Khatif and Kiryat Arba?

  70. 70
    👽 Martin says:

    @Brachiator: I don’t think Israel needs fly over rights any longer. They’ve got several cruise missile capable submarines now. Assuming their cruise missiles are at least as good as ours were 25 years ago, they’d probably be better off with that approach anyway.

  71. 71
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Correctly oriented progressives know that Obama is at least as likely, — or to be as charitable as possible — no less likely, than Romney to attack Iran.

    It’s one of the ways there’s no real difference between them….

  72. 72
    Joe Max says:

    But of course, the Israeli bombers will be greeted as liberators!

  73. 73
    JoyfulA says:

    Pakistan has nukes, and Pakistan has missiles. Why wouldn’t Israel worry that if it attacks Iran, Pakistan might attack Israel?

  74. 74
    ...now I try to be amused says:

    Regime change in Israel plz

  75. 75
    catclub says:

    I think shooting down any Israeli jets on their way to Iran is a good solution. Claim that either the Iranians did it or the Iraqi Air Farce. The Iranians or the Iraqis would not deny it.

  76. 76
    catclub says:

    Also: Revenge for the Liberty (1967) would be sweet.

  77. 77
    Brachiator says:

    @👽 Martin:

    I don’t think Israel needs fly over rights any longer. They’ve got several cruise missile capable submarines now. Assuming their cruise missiles are at least as good as ours were 25 years ago, they’d probably be better off with that approach anyway.

    The speculation about an Israeli attack has emphasized cruise missiles. The deeper speculation assumes that Iran has missiles as well, and that Israel will have to neutralize them in order to carry out any attack. This is a trickier proposition.

    What is not talked about as much is how Israel would deal with the anger that any attack would arouse and the inevitable armed insurgency.

    And the wild cards, such as turmoil in the region causing Putin to increase Russian influence in the region.

  78. 78
    wrb says:

    @NCSteve:

    My read is that it is a deliberate, and deeply cynical, attempt to induce a freakout by the oil market that runs up the price of gas, and causes a downturn, in advance of the election.

    This

    It is the one strategy that makes sense, and could work.

  79. 79
    Brachiator says:

    @JoyfulA:

    Pakistan has nukes, and Pakistan has missiles. Why wouldn’t Israel worry that if it attacks Iran, Pakistan might attack Israel?

    I don’t know that Pakistan’s missiles would reach Israel. Besides, Pakistan is more obsessed with India than it is with Israel.

    That said, a missile war between multiple nations would be outrageous, and would also drag the US into the war to aid Israel.

  80. 80
    noabsolutes says:

    I think Occam’s Razor in this situation would have us look at the likelihood that Israeli politicians are fearmongering war with Iran for the same reasons Americans are– to look tough within their *own* domestic politics. There’s massive discontent within Israel over economic inequality, the future of the “Jewish state” given its dependence on apartheiddisenfranchised Arab labor, and insecurity within its own borders. It also distracts from the peace process that Likud has *no intention* of seeing proceed and the settlement expansion that is basically Netanyahu’s entire legacy. What better than an external threat to deflect attention from the shit-show, on the one hand, and draw attention to the upright pretense under which billions in Israeli funds and a healthy amount of American military aid are being diverted from more decent uses– for Jews, Christians, and Muslims within Israel, not to mention the starved and occupied people of Gaza–on the other?

  81. 81
    👽 Martin says:

    @JoyfulA: Going over Iran adds 750 miles to the range to reach Israel. And anything that leaves Pakistan heading west will be interpreted by the US as a first strike against US overseen Afghanistan. Basically a first strike against the US. And India might just treat it as a first strike as well, because, well they just might want to. Pakistan is in a big enough trap as it is without getting sucked into Iran’s crap.

  82. 82
    👽 Martin says:

    But all that above said, I don’t think Iran would attempt a strike on Israel. There’s no way that could be done without getting the US involved, and I just don’t see how Iran comes out on the favorable end of that.

  83. 83
    xian says:

    @Davis X. Machina: crap, you had to say drones. now mclaren is going to show up and perform an interpretive dance about how we’re all obots!!!

  84. 84
    Phoenician in a time of Romans says:

    @MattF:

    I think the real problem is that, for Israel, there’s no downside to reckless chatter about attacking Iran. And doing it at random intervals with no apparent immediate motivation keeps everyone worried.

    Remind me again how Iran is supposed to be the warmongering nuclear troublemaker in the Middle East…

  85. 85
    WJS says:

    It sounds bad—war on “multiple fronts,” “hundreds of rockets and missiles”—but when you get right down to it, a month of conflict and 500 deaths could easily be seen as a small price to pay to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    What a ridiculous statement. Yes, that is “all” it would take and then Iran would be permanently dissuaded from ever attempting to do what it is they are NOT doing right now.

    Iran is not developing nuclear weapons and they do not have a nuclear weapons program. Israel knows this, but they have to keep beating the drum anyway.

    Why not just admit that Israel runs American foreign policy and be done with it?

  86. 86
    Brachiator says:

    @WJS:

    Iran is not developing nuclear weapons and they do not have a nuclear weapons program. Israel knows this, but they have to keep beating the drum anyway.

    Bullshit.

    No one can say what Iran’s aims are.

    But here’s the thing. Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, but did not understand that Bush and Cheney did not give a shit about Saddam’s ego or Iraq’s national sovereignty.

    Iran is making the same mistake.

    They should choke back on the humiliation and open all their nuclear sites to outside inspection.

    But they can’t, or won’t. And so they fall into a stupid trap, unless the US can neutralize the saber rattling coming from Israel.

  87. 87
    Doug Danger says:

    Seldom have I read more uninformed dreck about military capabilities, strategy, and operations than in this comment thread. good lord.

  88. 88
    mdblanche says:

    It sounds bad—war on “multiple fronts,” “hundreds of rockets and missiles”—but when you get right down to it, a month of conflict and 500 deaths could easily be seen as a small price to pay to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

    “Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks.”

  89. 89
    WJS says:

    @Brachiator:

    Bullshit.
    No one can say what Iran’s aims are.

    So where are they?

    David Albright, a long-time expert on Iran’s nuclear program, says that Iran will probably accumulate enough low-enriched uranium this year (2009) to “reach the first level of breakout capability, namely enough low-enriched uranium to make one nuclear weapon.” And in an ironic twist, he says even though Iran’s stated goal is to have a nuclear program for domestic power, it appears to be running out of uranium for such a plan. “It’s one of the unfortunate ironies of the situation that while they don’t have enough uranium for a civil nuclear energy program, they have plenty for a weapons program,” Albright says. “Even if Iran runs out of uranium, they have more than enough to eventually produce tens of nuclear weapons.” He urges the United States to seek tougher sanctions, but also to open wide-ranging negotiations with Iran.

    You’ve fallen for the hype. The U.S. government has said, repeatedly, in direct contradiction to the Israelis, that Iran has not had a weapons program since 2003.

    Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier, according to current and former American officials. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.

    Being “on the path” is not the same as actually having the capability of producing a nuclear weapon; besides, Israel has at least 200 nuclear weapons. Do you really think Iran is going to attack Israel when everyone knows that Israel has the capability to destroy most of the Middle East? Please.

  90. 90
    WJS says:

    @Brachiator:

    Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction

    Stupid much? We sold Iraq biological and chemical weapons in the 1980s.

    Iraq did not have a viable nuclear weapons program is what I think you meant to say.

  91. 91
    valency says:

    I don’t know the answer, but I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t some effort going on to manipulate American domestic politics.

    Do you know how silly this sounds? When it comes to the middle east, Israel doesn’t influence American politics, it owns American politics. The Israel lobby is obviously ratchetting the rhetoric and beating the war drums.

  92. 92
    bob h says:

    Yes, Netanyahu realizes he will soon lose his ability to blackmail Obama. In a second term Obama will tell him to sod off and might even encourage Israel to get rid of him.

    But I think an Israeli attack in which we are not participants will not necessarily hurt Obama as Americans will tend to rally to his side in a world crisis.

  93. 93
    greenergood says:

    Mondoweiss says it’s a distraction from Palestine, which is bidding for non-member observer status in the UN in September:

    http://mondoweiss.net/2012/08/.....-iran.html

    NYTimes quoted in this article:

    Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, asked diplomats from two dozen countries on Monday to support the Palestinian Authority’s renewed bid for observer-state status at the United Nations, calling it “a test of the whole rule of law.” Speaking in East Jerusalem to envoys from countries in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, Ms. Ashrawi asked them not only to vote for the future United Nations resolution on observer-state status, possibly this fall, but to provide the Palestinian Authority with a financial “safety net” when, she predicted, “Americans decide to cut off aid” because of the bid. The Palestinians’ plan is to petition the United Nations General Assembly, where passage is all but assured. That would give the Palestinians access to organizations like the International Criminal Court, where they hope to pursue claims against Israel on matters like settlements.

    And Mearsheimer:
    Iranian nuclear weapons are an important issue for sure, but it is even more important that we be able to continue expanding settlements in Judea and Samaria and prevent a two-state solution. Threatening a war with Iran has done much to take the Palestinian issue off the front burner in recent months. An actual war – especially since it will be protracted – will insulate us from meaningful criticism for at least a few years. By then, the two-state solution will be dead and buried. All of this is very important if Obama wins a second term, because then he will start leaning on us again to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state of their own.

  94. 94
    Amir Khalid says:

    @WJS:
    Now, now. Those bio and chem weapons were long gone by the time of the second Iraq war. Searches by occupying American forces turned up nothing but ancient traces of them.

  95. 95
    WJS says:

    @Amir Khalid: Don’t let that stand in the way of a good old-fashioned BJ flame war, righteous indignation mandatory.

  96. 96
    Donald says:

    ““It sounds bad—war on “multiple fronts,” “hundreds of rockets and missiles”—but when you get right down to it, a month of conflict and 500 deaths could easily be seen as a small price to pay to end Iran’s nuclear ambitions.”
    Probably true. What a pity that war would not, in fact, end Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It would just set them back a bit while (probably) making them more resolved than ever to get nuclear weapons.
    A war would be a very large price to pay for that.”

    Not to mention the likely much larger number of Iranian deaths if there is a war. And they weren’t mentioned. I wish some people making antiwar arguments wouldn’t bend so far backwards to see things from the warmongering perspective they end up simply ignoring the lives of people on the other side.

  97. 97
    Matthew says:

    Easy solution to Israeli meddling in American affairs: invade. Begin a campaign to blur the line between Jews and Muslims, pointing out that they all have beards, speak in rough and unintelligible tongues, and are from the same untrustworthy geographical region. Point out that Israel may now be trying to acquire nuclear weapons, then blow America’s collective mind with the stunning announcement that we have found weapons of mass destruction in Israel’s possession. Boom! A side of bacon with your American invasion, foreigners? Landslide victory for Obama and pork chops get renamed freedom burgers.

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