Several interesting developments concerning the simmering war between Israel and Iran. The website of the Iranian Majlis published a report (in Farsi) by the director of an official government think tank that advocates Iranian attacks against Israeli sites. The author argues that Israel’s sustained attacks within Iran demand a response. An Israeli TV news report says (in Hebrew) that the Iranian website calls for a “pre-emptive” attack on Israel, and not one that is purely in response to an Israeli first strike. Though it is reflective of the Israel’s narrow thinking that they would call such an Iranian strike “pre-emptive,” when Israel has already attacked Iran. One of the specific sites indicated for targeting was Sdot Micha, Israel’s secret missile base and home of its Jericho intercontinental missile arsenal.
You’ll recall that an Israeli source told me that a drone crashed into that base, which may’ve been tied to Iran and/or Hezbollah origins. Whether or not this story was true, the new report from Iran indicates that the country’s leadership very much has this sort of strike in its mind and would be interested in responding to Israel’s numerous domestic attacks against Iranian bases and nuclear scientists.
A Western diplomat based in Pakistan has added a new wrinkle to the Israel war scenario. He says a new player should be considered as a protagonist if Israel strikes:
A European diplomat based in Pakistan, permitted to speak only under condition of anonymity, said that if Israel attacks, Islamabad will have no choice but to support any Iranian retaliation. That raises the specter of putting a nuclear-armed Pakistan at odds with Israel, widely believed to have its own significant nuclear arsenal.
I personally think it’s unlikely Pakistan officially would join the fight on Iran’s side. But it wouldn’t have to to weigh in on the subject. Pakistanis already detest the U.S. for assassinating Osama bin Laden and our serial drone attacks which violate national sovereignty. When Ayatollah Khomeini announced a fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1989, the first nation which took up the call wasn’t Iran, but Pakistan. It’s likely that Iran will activate its influence inside Afghanistan to make our lives miserable there should it be attacked by Israel. With the Pakistani Taliban joining in the fight and attacking U.S. assets wherever they find them, it could make our presence in large portions of the region almost impossible to sustain.
Not to mention, while Iran doesn’t yet have a nuke, Pakistan does. While it likely would not use its nukes to defend Iran, just the fact that it has them automatically makes the calculations a lot more complex.
In the current climate, it’s hard to know what information is credible and what is based on exaggeration. We need to weigh that in evaluating the value of the reports above. But even if we downgrade some or all of it, in its entirety is signals an escalation in the thinking of Arab-Muslim elements in the region. Many among them are already thinking about making Israel and the U.S. pay the price for attacking if they do.
Israeli strategic thinking on this subject remains mired in self-delusion:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak claimed during a high-profile security conference that there is a “wide global understanding” that military action may be needed.
“There is no argument about the intolerable danger a nuclear Iran (would pose) to the future of the Middle East, the security of Israel and to the economic and security stability of the entire world,” Barak said.
The opposite is the case. There is a wide global understanding that military actions would be a very bad idea. And there certainly is a strong argument against the idea that a nuclear Iran would pose a danger to world stability. In fact, the only people who believe this are some of Israel’s top leaders, Islamophobes around the world, and neocons in the U.S. and Israel. It’s interesting how Barak attempts to parlay that rather narrow body of opinion into an overwhelming world consensus.