Israeli officials say Iran’s ‘existential threat’ is– braindrain of 200,000 ‘best and brightest’

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As you surely know the Washington Post’s David Ignatius has reported that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June.” 

Well, here is some excellent followup reporting by NBC’s Robert Windrem on the thinking among US and Israeli officials.

Panetta’s reported view has been echoed in recent interviews by NBC News with current and former U.S. and Israeli officials who have access to their countries’ intelligence. Those officials, all of whom spoke to NBC News on background, estimated the odds of an Israeli attack on Iran as better than 50-50.

Most of the officials said it is highly unlikely that the war-weary U.S. would mount a military attack on Iran, instead relying on financial sanctions and diplomatic pressure to squeeze Tehran.

Then Windrem offers this beautiful important Question-and-Answer from those unnamed Israeli officials:

Q: Why would Israel launch such an attack?

A: Putting aside Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory comments that Israel should be “wiped off the face of the Earth” (which some Iranians claim privately was a mistranslation), some Israeli officials believe the continuous threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon would lead as many as 200,000 of their best and brightest citizens to leave for the United States and other Western nations. That is the “existential threat” Israeli officials worry about, not that Iran could destroy Israel.  An Iranian nuclear weapon would give Israel a lot less latitude to respond to Iranian threats, the Israelis believe.

Repeat: Israeli officials. Remember, it is routine to hear about a second Holocaust posed by Iran. Jeffrey Goldberg talked Auschwitz in his big piece pushing an attack. Newt Gingrich has talked the same poppycock.

As Scott McConnell says: 

A first perhaps, for MSM explanations of how Israel feels its citizens cannot (unlike Americans, Chinese, Russians, etc) deal with the psychology of nuclear deterrence.

Yes, let our MSM finally cover this question in depth. Let Americans have an open discussion of what is at stake here, what Ahmadinejad really said (Charlie Rose was quoting the “wipe off the map” line last night talking to the PM of Qatar), and what an attack would mean for us.

Also, this gem from Ignatius today:

Some Israelis have also likened a strike on Iran to the 1976 hostage-rescue raid on Entebbe, Uganda, which was followed by a change of regime in that country.

As a friend writes, I know there are people who will say this. But are there Israelis who actually believe this?

Oh and here is Juan Cole. Good:

What is striking to me is the glibness with which the Right wing speaks of an attack on Iran. The UN Security Council has not authorized the use of force against Iran, and Tehran has not attacked any other country. A strike on Iran is therefore a war crime, more especially since it would release radiactive toxins on the people of Isfahan and of the Middle East more generally.

Besides, proponents never say how they would pay for such a war. Iran is three times as populous and geographically much larger than Iraq. ..

Anyone who advocates such a thing is a sort of monster, in my view.

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