The idea that Israel is trying to bait the U.S. to attack Iran by threatening to do so itself is gaining hold in the US mainstream. In the Times, Jodi Rudoren hints at the purpose of the Israeli bellicosity:
“There is a window of opportunity,” said the official, Uzi Dayan, a former deputy chief of staff in the military. “This window is closing, but if the United States would be much clearer and stronger about the sanctions on one hand and about what can happen if Iran won’t make a U-turn — there is not a lot of time, but there is still time to make a difference.”
Mr. Dayan’s assessment seems to buttress the theory that the collective saber rattling is part of a campaign to pressure the Obama administration and the international community, rather than an indication of the imminence of an Israeli strike.
Robert Wright at the Atlantic says Israel is bluffing:
it’s yet more evidence that their hope is to get action out of Obama, not to bomb Iran themselves.
None of this means that Israel couldn’t possibly wind up bombing Iran in the next few months. Bluffs can be hard to back away from, and a bluff this loud makes for a particularly embarrassing climbdown. But the calculation seems to be that Obama, in high-anxiety pre-election mode, will deliver at least enough rhetoric–if only a more high-profile or in some other sense more binding articulation of things he’s already said–to make for a graceful climbdown.
Personally, I hope Obama doesn’t deliver.
At Foreign Policy, Steve Walt agrees:
The Israelis know that they cannot do the job themselves, and their larger aim is to keep attention riveted on Tehran (and not on settlement expansion) and to make sure that if war does come, the United States does the heavy lifting.
In short, all this war talk is a bluff, but one can scarcely blame Israel for employing a tactic that keeps working so well. It’s our fault we keep falling for it.
MJ Rosenberg calls it most directly:
To me, it is clear. Their entire game is to squeeze President Obama during the run-up to the presidential election. True, the tactic is not new but the urgency of the current campaign is unprecedented.
That is because the primary fear motivating Netanyahu and Barak is not of Iran. It is that President Obama will be re-elected and will, after November, be significantly more immune to their demands for more Iran sanctions, support for some future Israeli strike against Iran and even for U.S.-back-up should an Israeli strike not be able to finish the job. Then there is what former Prime Minister Golda Meir called the“shopping list” of whatever else the military and intelligence community wants from the United States at any given moment. Netanyahu and Barak know that the window to ask and to get could close in November so the name of the game is getting as much as possible now.
They may be right. President Obama will probably give Israel almost anything to prevent an attack on Iran during the election campaign, an attack that could quite conceivably crash the world economy and incidentally elect Israel’s preferred candidate, Mitt Romney. So now is the moment. ..
So here is my prediction. There will be no war any time soon. But Israel will be getting more and more goodies from President Obama between now and the election just to ensure it, and probably afterwards as well.