08/02/2012, 00.00
ISRAEL - IRAN

Iran attack and the US elections

Joshua Lapide
A former Mossad chief says Iranian should be afraid of the next 12 weeks, i.e. until the next US Presidential election. Panetta tries to convince Netanyahu that sanctions are working. The latter however says that Israel will act on its own. As Romney plays the more reliable ally, Obama is faced with dilemmas. An attack has pros and cons.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Reports of an attack against Iran's nuclear facilities have become more insistent in the past few days. The cut-off time would be November, when the United States holds its elections.

For years, Israel has accused the international community of doing nothing to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear capability. Iran insists that it has the right to develop a peaceful nuclear programme, but has failed to submit to the stringent checks of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Today, in a statement quoted in the New York Times, former Mossad chief and national security adviser Ephraim Halevy said that if he were Iranian he "would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks," i.e. the period leading up to the US presidential election in November.

It is no coincidence that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney were in Jerusalem in recent days.

Both reassured Israel that the United States shared its concerns over Iran's nuclear programme. However, Panetta was more open to a diplomatic solution without excluding military action.

Coinciding with the Defence secretary's visit to Israel, US President Barack Obama ordered new sanctions on Iran's oil exports and financial transactions.

This has not satisfied Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) who reminded Panetta that "a few months ago that when all else fails, America will act." For the Israeli leader, nothing has "yet convinced the Iranians to stop their program".

For the prime minister, Israel could destroy Iran's nuclear facilities on its own.  "With our very existence, we do not put our faith in the hands of others, even our best of friends," he said.

In fact, Netanyahu's bluster is but political blackmail. Intelligence sources do not believe Israel has the capability to do much damage to Iranian nuclear facilities, which are buried 100 metres below ground, far from the reach of any existing bunker busting bomb.

The blackmail lies in pitting Obama (and Panetta) against Mitt Romney. The Republic hopeful skewered the Obama administration for not being supportive enough of Israel, insisting that "any and all measures" must be used to stop Tehran.

This amounts to an appeal to the staunchly pro-Israel Jewish and evangelical voters in America to cast their ballot for Romney if Obama does not act.

Survey data show that US Jews and Evangelical Christians constitute some 20 million votes. Obama won 78 per cent of the Jewish vote in the 2008 election but a nationwide Gallup poll in June showed him down to 64 per cent.

Viewed as a liberal, Obama is backed by young pacifist voters, who are now starting to see him as just another Bush for delaying troop withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan or failing to shut down Guantanamo.

From Obama's perspective, the best time to attack would be after the election. In Israel, the debate over a possible attack against Iran has been openly debated for months.

Top military and intelligence officials have expressed their opposition to an attack because it would threaten Israel's survival since Iran already has missiles that can reach Israel.

Civilian leaders appear more willing to attack, as they present themselves as saviours of the nation, perhaps to hide the fact that they are unable to bring political solutions to the country's serious economic and social problems.

Printable version
CLOSE X
See also
Ahmadinejad urges US to see Iran as a potential friend, not a threat
23/09/2009
For Obama, Netanyahu "didn't offer any viable alternatives" to solving the Iranian nuclear problem
04/03/2015
As Obama travels to the Middle East Israel gets ready for war with Iran
02/06/2009
US open to dialogue but still wants Tehran to stop nuclear programme
16/04/2009
US military pressure increasing in the Persian Gulf
22/06/2010