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Israel likely to bomb Iran this year - NY Times Magazine

Israel appears set on attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities this year, writes Ronen Bergman, intelligence expert  for Yediot Aharonot, in the cover story of the New York Times Magazine. He bases his prediction on interviews with many top security people, mainly Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who sat with him for several long discussions in Barak’s Tel Aviv penthouse. Bergman wrote that during one of those interviews:

Barak leaned forward and said with the utmost solemnity, “And if a nuclear Iran covets and occupies some gulf state, who will liberate it? The bottom line is that we must deal with the problem now.”

Bergman goes on to write that Israeli security officials estimate that in nine months, Iran’s  nuclear project will have progressed beyond Israel’s ability to stop it with bombs, and in 15 months, it will have advanced beyond the reach of America’s military. The Israelis don’t believe the Obama administration will pull the trigger, so they’re convinced they have to.

As for the potential blowback after an Israeli strike, Bergman lists Iran’s hundreds of missiles that can reach Tel Aviv, Hizbullah’s 50,000 rockets and missiles, plus those of Hamas and Syria, plus 40 Iranian and Hizbullah terrorist “sleeper cells” around the world, plus the economic effects of an Iranian oil embargo. But Israeli security officials are undeterred, Bergman writes, because they figure that these risks “are ones Israel will have to deal with regardless of whether it attacks Iran now – and if Iran goes nuclear, dealing with these problems will become far more difficult.”

They figure they can set Iran’s nuclear program back three-to-five years. Former Mossadnik Rafi Eitan is quoted as saying the Iranians could rebuild in three months.

One risk that Bergman doesn’t mention is that of a WMD war; Iran may have chemical and/or biological weapons, Syria is believed to have chemical weapons, and everyone knows Israel has the full complement of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

And one thing Bergman writes that is just plain wrong is that “a kind of panic has begun to overtake Israeli society, anxiety that missiles will start raining down soon.” There’s no panic whatsoever; Israeli society has gradually become resigned to war and isn’t even thinking about it.

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    1. amused

      Wow. Do you think Mr. Bergman, an insider, gets this story without a message being pumped into him? If he is aware of this or not makes no difference; the result is the same.

      I remember Meir Dagan(you know, the head of Mossad just a year ago or so) saying that Iran won’t get the bomb in 5 years, but then he was attacked by Barak, in public even, and just a few months later Iran was all of the sudden ‘just a year away from the bomb’.

      The fact is, that article is just one giant ad for the Israeli government and it’s thinking, dressed up as ‘serious’ journalism. It’s just another pressure tactic that Israel places on the world, especially America, saying “if you lose the nerve, we’ll go unilateral”.

      It’s a smart move by the Israelis, but I’m dismayed to see you buy so easily into the article, it’s an obvious propaganda piece with a clear message.
      Do you honestly the 2nd most important man in Israel, Barak, would give a truly independent journalist so much of his time in a cover story for one of the most important magazines in America, setting the agenda in the media?

      Think again.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Elahn Zetlin

      Another lame article with no substance, only art.
      While serious journalists and authors discuss this topic with credible and verified authorities, all this article shows is opinion dressed up in hearsay.
      What rubbish.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Philos

      WMD? Not likely Larry. Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria all behave rationally. More rationally then Israel in fact. Hezbollah made a mistake in 2006 and admitted as much, and have no doubt upgraded their strategic doctrine. The Assad and Iranian regimes are only interested in survival; using WMD in a counter-attack to a conventional strike is suicide and they know it. Why commit suicide when you defeat your enemy with a thousand paper cuts or even let them self-destruct for their stupid folly?

      On a technical note biological weapons aren’t really feasible. One problem is that no one (contrary to Hollywood) has managed to develop a missile warhead that can deliver them without killing the pathogens. The only way to go about it is to use a crop-dusting type plane. However, we’re talking about releasing plague and plague have this annoying tendency of not really discriminating who is right and who is wrong in wars. A plague inflicted on Israel by the Iranians will find its way to Iran and vice-versa.

      Chemical weapons are also ineffective. Yes they kill indiscriminately, however, they are hardly considered “mass destruction” because of their very limited range and their sensitivity to weather. If it happens to rain, for example, when a chemical tipped missile goes off then it won’t kill anyone except one or two people who have the misfortune of being outside and right underneath the missile. Chemical weapons are very handy against civilians as witnessed by Saddam’s use of them against the defenceless Kurds but as a weapon of war (not genocide) they’re hardly. The vast majority, almost 95%, of all fatalities in WW1 were caused by good old fashioned bits of metal flying at high velocity or “traditional” high explosive munitions. In WW1 they practically stopped wasting their time with chemical attacks by the close of the war because of their ineffectiveness.

      Reply to Comment
    4. sh

      On this subject I’m relying on Uri Avnery. He said in his weekly sermon a few weeks back:
      “ISRAEL WILL not attack Iran. Period.
      Some may think that I am going out on a limb. Shouldn’t I add at least “probably” or “almost certainly”?
      No, I won’t. I shall repeat categorically: Israel Will NOT Attack Iran.”

      Reply to Comment
    5. DTA

      The Republican party nominees in the US(except Paul) are campaining on of how they would deal with Iran if they get elected. So, at least before the elections, I don’t think they will get deprived from talking their pro-war rhetoric.

      Reply to Comment
    6. DHMCarver

      I presume the real reason that Bibi et al. would bomb Iran this year would have nothing to do with strategic imperatives and more to do with knowing that any criticism from the US in a presidential election year would be muted, if there was any at all.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Richard Witty

      Can you describe how you understand that Hezbollah, Iran and Syria behave rationally?

      It is a truth that both Iran and Syria have brutally suppressed popular demonstration movements in the past two years, and Hezbollah officials (not top officials that I’m aware of) have been implicated in the assassination of Hariri.

      They all seem like willing use of desparate measures.

      I don’t believe in black/white descriptions, but of continuums. So, I cannot conclude the simplistic “Iran is crazy”, or the simplistic “Iran is rational”.

      The relevant question is “how desparately motivated” and “what stimulates their desparation?”

      My hope is that Iran is rational (a gamble currently), and that they are humble relative to their desparation, and that their neighbors get to know them sufficiently to NOT stimulate desparation (to avoid unnecessary insult and cornering).

      Reply to Comment
    8. Philos

      Richard, their rationality is derived from their behaviour over the years.
      Hezbollah made a serious miscalculation in 2006, admitted as much and has changed their doctrine in spite of Israeli provocations (such as the explosions at their arms depots). Their likely retalitation for these attacks will be in a similar veing; clandestine. They also realized that in order to deter Israel from launching a full-scall war against them they need to have a credible capability to threaten Israeli cities with rockets. No doubt after seeing their success from the battle of Bint Jbeil they have further reinforced their bunker, trench and underground defence system.
      Murder (although heinous) is not neccessarily an act of desperation or irrationality. In killing Hariri Syria and Hezbollah made a calculated decision and, as it turns out, won out in the end.
      Syria has long been far more rational than Israel. They would have made peace with Israel in exchange for the Golan, and a ticket into international respectability. They also did not respond to the destruction of their nuclear facility in 2008. Nor have they sought to escalate tensions in the North in spite of their rhetoric.
      Iran too has played a masterful game of realpolitik since the US invasion of Iraq even though it looks like they’ve made a serious miscalculation with regards to Western determination. They may yet be cornered or pushed into desperation yet but so far they’ve played the game well of challenging Western hegemony in the Middle East.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Philos

      Holy crap! I just read the NYT article by Ronen Bergman. Barak and Netenyahu are utter megalomaniacs!!!!
      Barak said: “It’s good to have diversity in thinking and for people to voice their opinions. But at the end of the day, when the military command looks up, it sees us — the minister of defense and the prime minister. When we look up, we see nothing but the sky above us.”
      !!!!!!!!!!!! No wonder the Americans are worried!!!!
      We can only hope that there would be a military coup before such folly could be carried through! A reverse situation of ’67 as it were.

      Reply to Comment
    10. ToivoS

      I prefer to believe Avnery — Israel will not attack Iran. They have been making threats nearly non-stop for the past 6 years and nothing. What is Netanyahu’s game? The only plausible conjecture is to pressure the US to do so. Notice Israeli supporters in the US are even threatening an Israeli nuclear attack on Iran if the US doesn’t do something.

      The real danger is that Israel will succeed in raising the temperature and Obama, in his continuous efforts to appease the lobby, will blunder into war.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Piotr Berman

      The murder of Hariri is only circumstantially attributed to Hezbollah, and there exists actors in the area with the capability of engineering both the murder and the “circumstantial evidence”. So it boils down to “we will never know”.

      The way I interpret recent political events in Lebanon, Hezbollah is very rational is setting and achieving limited political goals.

      Rationality of regimes like Iranian and Syrian is harder to assess. What is easy to assess is the insanity in Jerusalem. I even read that this is called “Jerusalem syndrom”. Moving the seat of government to Jerusalem means that the political life rises to a higher level, beyond the mundane reality me and you may perceive. Netanyahu and Barak must talk tough to look sufficiently macho compared to Lieberman. Minister Ishai worries if the Army will pray enough, and study Torah enough to win the next war. Lieberman is busy correcting fellow ministers as TOO EXTREME.

      Believe me, if Lieberman deemed that position to be too extreme it was waaaaay out there. So what happens next? Rather than convince fellow Israelis to that position the extremist are finding GOP primary candidates to parrot exactly that.

      The existential danger to this government comes from peace negotiations. Israel has to offer something concrete on borders. One approach is to offer something that would satisfy all key members of the ruling coalition. Such an offer can be quite toxic in relationships with Europe, and who knows, perhaps it could even alienate Americans. The second approach would be to offer something similar to what Olmert and Livni offered last time. That would lead to the collapse in the government, a revolt inside Likud etc.

      So the government devised an elaborate strategy to avoid making any proposals. But this can have toxic consequences too.

      Reply to Comment