Silverstein and McGovern ponder prospect of Israeli attack on Iran

on 22 Comments

Two well-informed analysts have posted new articles today noting mounting indications that Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak might be on the verge of launching a war against Iran.

Richard Silverstein begins his Tikun-Olam commentary this way:

I have been writing for more than two years about the possibility of an Israeli war against Iran (make no mistake, an Israeli attack on Iran will not be just a single discrete operation, but involve an ongoing, and regional war).  And I’ve never felt closer to the idea it was going to happen.

In part, his fears are based on the message the Israeli leaders are delivering via their own media:

I’ve been reporting here on numerous Israeli media sources who’ve noted the increasing apocalyptical rhetoric from both Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu concerning the Iranian threat to Israel.  Never have a I read so many Israeli commentators reporting virtually the same portraits of leaders ready for war, and at the same time.  It’s ominous, I tell you.

Silverstein cites a report that apparently appears only in the Hebrew print edition of today’s Haaretz that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta just flew into Israel for his second meeting with Barak in two weeks. Recalling that the U.S. government, including Panetta personally, have thus far blocked an Israeli attack, Silverstein expresses hope that the result will be the same this time, but he quotes Haaretz reporter Amos Harel’s observation that “Lately the administration has refrained from direct remarks about a possible Israeli strike.” Silverstein’s interpretation of Washington’s recent reticence: “Because Obama, with falling popularity ratings especially within the Jewish community, doesn’t feel strong enough to step in front of this oncoming train (wreck).”

The post concludes:

U.S. defense secretaries don’t meet their Israeli counterparts twice in two weeks and fly half way around the world in order to discuss sanctions.  I smell war in the air.  God, I hope I’m wrong.  So many will die if I’m not, and needlessly so.

Meanwhile, over at Consortium News, former CIA analyst and Gaza Freedom Flotilla veteran Ray McGovern offers a similar analysis in a much longer piece entitled “Israel’s Window to Bomb Iran“:

There are mounting signs that the right-wing Israeli government may think the timing is right for an attack on Iran, with growing alarms inside Israel about alleged Iranian progress on building a nuclear bomb – and with President Barack Obama fearing loss of key Jewish political support in 2012 if he doesn’t go along.

With Obama clearly afraid to stand up to the Israelis, McGovern suspects that they might launch an attack without even waiting for a “green light” from Washington:

The Israelis might well conclude that the formidable effectiveness of the Likud Lobby and kneejerk support of the U.S. Congress as well as still powerful neoconservatives in the Executive Branch (and on the opinion pages of major American newspapers) amount to solid assurance of automatic support for pretty much anything Israel decides to do.

In McGovern’s reading, however, the Israeli leaders’ push for war stems not just from their unchecked power in Washington, but also from their growing strategic isolation in their own region. In this context, he suggests, the goal of an attack would be not only to delay Iran’s nuclear program, but also to “mousetrap Washington into an even closer military relationship with Israel.”

McGovern doesn’t clearly spell out how that “mousetrapping” would unfold, but my guess is that he’s assuming that Iran would retaliate, directly or indirectly, not only against Israel but also against U.S. interests in the region – perhaps against U.S. forces remaining in Iraq, perhaps against Western tanker traffic and/or U.S-backed Gulf states – and that Obama et al. would then feel they’d have no choice but to join in some kind of all-out assault on Iran and anyone in the region associated with it.

In short, Armageddon….

In any case, McGovern’s piece also includes interesting material on two related issues: Bush and Cheney’s chagrin voe their own intelligence apparatus’s 2007 finding that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons development program four years earlier, and the Obama Administration’s craven support for Israeli policies with respect to the 2010 and 2011 Gaza Freedom Flotillas.

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22 Responses

  1. Chaos4700
    October 3, 2011, 11:14 pm

    Whoa! I almost missed this article! Why is no one talking about this one, this might be the most important article on Mondoweiss right this second! Yes the other articles are very important, but why this one?

    If Israel attacks Iran, it will be World War III, and it will be Israel and the United States against pretty much any country where the Muslim population is 30% or more. US/Israel might have the UK, Canada and maybe Australia on our side, but I predict most of Europe will do the right thing and stay out of it. South America will weigh in against the US-Israeli axis, by and large, and that will be too tempting for Russia and China to capitalize on the US’ global unpopularity.

    It will be the next “War to end all wars,” and Israel will drag us into it on the wrong side.

    • DBG
      October 4, 2011, 11:56 am

      It is pretty naive you don’t factor in the Sunni-Shia divide w/ your ‘doomsday’ prophecy Chaos.

      • Chaos4700
        October 4, 2011, 7:21 pm

        Oh, and pray tell, which one would join Israel and the US’ side? Sunnis, or Shi’ites?

  2. kalithea
    October 4, 2011, 12:47 am

    The lunatic state of Israel needs to be stopped in its tracks. Economies are teetering on the brink. War with Iran will catapult the world into a global depression with oil and food prices skyrocketing.

    If Israelis feel the world hates them now; they ain’t seen nothing yet. Just let them trigger this war. It’s one thing to criticize and isolate them for their treatment of Palestinians and quite another to despise them for plunging the entire world into misery.

    And who will be the idiots in the region that would to allow Israel airspace for its invasion – hopefully not those tyrants in Saudi Arabia who also obsess about Iran.

    Israel better not take this disastrous step. It’s about time the world views the settler nation as an existential threat to the entire planet.

  3. American
    October 4, 2011, 10:12 am

    Most experts think Israel is not capable of striking Iran…but that won’t stop them from trying……their goal after all would be to draw the US into that ME war they want.

  4. Dan Crowther
    October 4, 2011, 10:45 am

    The Occupy Wall Street/Boston/Chicago etc protests need to start hitting on this topic. Who cares about expensive college tuition or neo-liberalism if we are all dead.

    Your are 100% right Chaos – by far the most important post on this site

    • DBG
      October 4, 2011, 11:53 am

      except every couple months Silverstein publishes the same stuff, he’s been doing it for years. He is trying to stay relevant, so he regurgitates empty threats he’s been posting for years now.

      • Dan Crowther
        October 4, 2011, 12:14 pm

        I dont see him making any threats here, hes a journalist after all, not sure who he would “threaten” – as for publishing the same stuff etc. – isnt he supposed to react to what leaders are saying? I mean, he admits he has addressed this topic a whole lot – but two Panetta trips in short order coupled with the ever increasing outward aggression shown by Israeli leaders seem to warrant a article.

        Instead of saying “ahh, dont pay any attention to this guy” – why not give us your take on the prospect of an Israeli attack on Iran – good idea, bad idea?

      • DBG
        October 4, 2011, 12:54 pm


        it is an absolutely horrible idea, both militarily and from a PR standpoint. Israel is already isolating itself enough, this would probably tip things over the edge.

        Militarily, Iran couldn’t defeat Israel(nor could Israel defeat Iran for that matter) but we’d see a ballistic missile battle like nothing seen in history. Israel’s north was basically shut down by WWII era missiles during Lebanon 2, Iran, although not cutting edge, has a much more advanced arsenal than that. That combined with a pretty much guaranteed attack from Syria along with Hezbollah and Hamas, Israel would be hurting.

      • Chaos4700
        October 4, 2011, 7:22 pm

        No, DBG, Iran can’t invade Israel. All Iran has to do to defeat Israel would be to successfully neutralize the IDF as it operates as a direct threat to Iranian soil and commerce.

  5. Dan Crowther
    October 4, 2011, 11:43 am

    A couple of things worth pointing out – Israel would have to use Turkish, Syrian, Iraqi or Saudi Arabian air space to launch this attack.
    The only alternative would be to fly their fighter bombers all the way down past Yemen and attack from the Sea.

    That is, of course, if they use an air attack.

    If they were to launch an attack from the Sea, from submarines – it would likely mean an initial nuclear strike. It is hard to imagine the Israelis being able to mount enough conventional firepower in the Gulf without blowing the lid off their agenda.

    The use of Turkish airspace to launch this hypothetical attack would mean insta-retaliation from the Turks – who have positive relations with the Iranians and have already barred military co-operation and the use of Turkish airspace to the Israeli’s. This would be a an act of War against Turkey.

    As we have noted many times before, Turkey is a NATO member. If Turkey were to engage Israel – a non NATO member – the rest of NATO would be obliged to defend Turkey ( not sure about a mandate to attack Israel in this situation). The dominos fall faster from here, if Turkey were to engage in war against the Israeli’s – Israel would be screwed in a conventional sense, the possibility of the Samson Option becomes greater. If nuclear weapons were used by the Israeli’s against the Turks – one could and maybe should expect a Chinese nuclear attack on Israel. Russia too would be compelled to act, and probably from the outset of an attack on Iran. In short, in very short order, if the Israeli’s attacked Iran, in a conventional or non conventional sense – the chances of human survival in at least the territory that is now Israel, and probably a far greater area – would be near zero.

    Any and all efforts should be taken to stop this from happening.

    • DBG
      October 4, 2011, 12:59 pm

      An Israeli attack on Iran would no doubt be catastrophic for everyone involved. But I don’t see it happening the way you foresee. How would Israel need to go through Turkey? that makes no sense at all, Turkey is to the north and west of Israel, no? If they are going to violate enemy airspace, they’d take the most direct way.

      An Israeli attack on Iran would involved NATO, but opposite as to what you are thinking. An Israeli attack on Iran would cause Iran to attack US/NATO warships in the Persian gulf, bring the US at least, and most likely NATO against all of Iran.

      • LeaNder
        October 4, 2011, 1:56 pm

        You must be dreaming: “An Israeli attack on Iran would cause Iran to attack US/NATO warships in the Persian gulf, bring the US at least, and most likely NATO against all of Iran.”

        I can see that Israel is working in that direction, but I think it is basically one of the many extortion scenario we see in this context. Israel can’t afford to pull the US into this, much less NATO.

        But it can threaten the US, given its power in the US senate: Look we could pull you into this.

      • Chaos4700
        October 4, 2011, 7:20 pm

        Name one incident in the past where Iran has attacked US ships.

      • RoHa
        October 5, 2011, 2:56 am

        “An Israeli attack on Iran would cause Iran to attack US/NATO warships in the Persian gulf, bring the US at least, and most likely NATO against all of Iran.”

        I’m pretty sure the Iranians will have factored this in to their thinking on the matter. Now that they have better relations with NATO Turkey than Turkey has with Israel, they could well decide to hold off any attack on US ships in the Gulf.

    • RoHa
      October 5, 2011, 2:52 am

      Just before the Georgian president went potty and picked a war with Russia, the Israelis were allegedly plotting to mount an attack on Iran from Georgian airbases.

      The Russians are said to have destroyed those bases and captured a quantity of more-or-less secret Israeli equipment.

      Add to that the current break with Turkey, and it looks like that route is closed.

  6. MHughes976
    October 4, 2011, 1:31 pm

    I’ve always been a bit sceptical about the attack on Iran, which would presumably also involve actions in Lebanon and Gaza. If Israel had been all ready, awaiting only a pretext, there were big fat pretexts available when the Battle of the Tree took place and when the violence around Gaza led to the Egyptian police deaths – but they were not taken up. Have things really changed in Israel’s favour since?
    I don’t really sense that public opinion is being prepared for war through the kind of propaganda and the kind of ultimatums that preceded war in Iraq.
    Could be wrong!

  7. eee
    October 4, 2011, 1:59 pm

    The only question that matters is how close Iran is to a nuclear weapon. If it is getting close, Israel will need to act unless the international community gets its act together to stop Iran first. And as usual, you will be surprised by how Israel acts. It will not be like anything anyone is expecting.

    It will not lead to war either. If the Iranians are smart, why would they pick a war with the US or Nato? As for shooting missiles at Israel, their missiles are so low quality that most will land in Iraq or Jordan. With the instability going on in Syria, Hezbollah cannot go to war and undermine Assad even more.

    • DBG
      October 4, 2011, 3:59 pm

      According to Assad, Hezbollah is in their pocket, wonder what Taxi thinks about that.,7340,L-4131259,00.html

      • Chaos4700
        October 4, 2011, 7:16 pm

        My guess would be Taxi, like 90+% of the world, thinks that Israeli new outlets (outside of Ha’aretz) are propaganda mills that are full of shit and IDF mouthpieces.

        It’s nice to see you and eee getting along so well after that tepid, half-hearted pseudo-argument you had earlier. Why should defending pogroms keep friends apart, right?

  8. Henry Norr
    October 4, 2011, 3:12 pm

    Haaretz has an interesting follow-up on Panetta’s visit to Israel here. The headline and lede are about former Mossad chief Meir Dagan arguing that Iran is far from being capable of building nuclear weapons and insisting that a military strike is “far from being Israel’s preferred option.” But the bulk of the story is about Panetta supposedly passing on “a clear message from his boss in Washington: The United States opposes any Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.”

  9. Henry Norr
    October 5, 2011, 12:45 pm

    Tony Karon chimes in on this topic with a post entitled “Is Israel Again Weighing an Attack on Iran’s Nuclear Facilities?” at Some highlights:

    “Panetta’s comments, coming barely a month after the U.S. reportedly agreed to deliver 55 bunker-busting GBU-28 bombs to Israel, were widely viewed as an “down, boy” message to any adventurist bomb-Iran impulses on the part of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.”

    “the latest round of chatter could be nothing more than the by-now quotidian Israeli saber rattling designed to make Iran believe that it faces imminent military action.”

    “the U.S. military[‘s] leaders have long made clear their belief that an Israeli military strike on Iran would have disastrous consequences both for Israel and for U.S. forces throughout the Middle East. ”

    “as Iranian scholar Trita Parsi, who has studied the Iran-U.S.-Israel relationship over decaes, wrote last weekend, the dangerous escalation of rhetoric amid the absence of communication channels between the U.S. and an increasingly isolated, embattled and skittish Iran raise the danger of an unintended lurch into tragedy. He warns of declining American influence creating a vacuum that a number of competing forces are jockeying to fill, and that the decision-making of key players is increasingly shaped by domestic politics rather than strategic calculation.”

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