Israeli attack on Iran: Unlikely in the near term

By Ron G.

Throughout the last few months and even more so in the past few weeks, discussions of a possible Israeli strike on Iran has come to the forefront of the agenda for many politicians, security analysts, and entities with interests in the region. Despite the increased rhetoric on all sides of this issue, which has been enhanced with the coverage of a frenzied media, the reality is that the probability of such an attack against Iran likely remains low for the near term.

Iranian uranium conversion facility outside of Isfahan (AP)

The increased chatter regarding an Israeli strike  on Iran’s nuclear facilities is a direct result of decisions by both the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The decision to enforce such sanctions by the aforementioned powers likely arose due to three primary factors: the understanding that negotiations with Iran surrounding its nuclear program are futile, persistent pressure from leadership within the United States’ security and political leadership, and the over-implied threats by Israel that the military option is ‘on the table’.

It is important, from the Israeli perspective, to create an atmosphere in which the military option is constantly relevant – even if only within the world of public opinion. The recent reporting and ongoing discussions in the United States only serve this interest. One cannot overlook the fact that the imposed sanctions were bolstered by the EU only after the scenario of a military attack had been widely discussed in both the Israeli and American media.

It remains quite clear that Israel has no real intention to become satisfied with the recent sanctions. Therefore, it is likely that Israeli officials will continue to express concern over the Iranian nuclear issue, in an effort to ensure that the international community continues on its course of implementing more sanctions.

The responses seen coming out of Iran, in the form of heated rhetoric and military exercises, are probably no more than the Islamic Republic’s muscle flexing. Such a claim can be seen in two recent developments. First, the Iranian silence when three Western carriers passed through the Straits of Hormuz, following the nation’s statements strongly opposing any such action. While second, the Iranian initiative regarding the resumption of negotiations with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and Germany). Such an initiative, however, is unlikely an earnest effort by the Iranians to resolve the outstanding issues.

Despite the increased threats, it is highly unlikely that the Iranians will close the Straits of Hormuz. It has been made abundantly clear that such an action would be interpreted as a declaration of war by Western powers, while Iran has no interest to be labeled as the aggressor at this point in time.

Taking into account the aforementioned, it must be said, that for just as many reasons, an Israeli attack on Iran remains just as unlikely. It would be politically unwise for Israel to take such a step just after the European Union sanctions are imposed. Furthermore an attack is unlikely to completely eliminate Iran’s nuclear program, due to the fact that it is widely dispersed throughout the country – unlike when Israel bombed Iraq’s one nuclear facility in 1981.

Thus, the question must be asked as to whether such an attack, which will at best only stall the Iranian program for a couple years, justify what will likely be a harsh response from Iran and its proxies, most notably Hezbollah?

For this reason, Israel is more likely to opt with clandestine actions which will hamper Iranian progress. Iran may seek to avenge these actions by planning and perpetrating terror attacks – not necessarily inside Israel, but rather against Jewish targets in Muslim countries, such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Morocco – the likes of which may have already been witnessed in recent attacks against Israeli interests in Georgia, Thailand, and India. The Iranian militant arm can span the globe, and as a result, other nations throughout southeast Asia, West Africa, and South America remain vulnerable to future attacks.

If you are interested in developments surrounding the Iranian nuclear issue, click here.