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In the past few weeks alone, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal warned the president that the United States must put a quick halt to the Iranian nuclear program, because otherwise Israel will bomb the facilities.
"An Israeli strike on Iran would be the most dangerous foreign policy issue President Obama could face," the paper wrote.
Another Republican ultra-hawk, former ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, maintains that additional sanctions alone will not be enough to make the Iranians abandon their nuclear ambitions. William Cohen, who served as secretary of defense during Bill Clinton's second presidential term (1997-2001), says that "there is a countdown taking place" and that Israel "is not going to sit indifferently on the sidelines and watch Iran continue on its way toward a nuclear-weapons capability."
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, explains that "a very narrow window" exists between the possibility of resolving the issue and an attack on Iran.
An op-ed in The Los Angeles Times states (with some justification) that if Iran does not respond in September to the demands made of it, the world should brace itself for an Israeli attack. However, the author adds (mistakenly) that in the event of an Israeli strike, Obama "will probably learn of the operation from CNN rather than the CIA."
So, the moment of truth will arrive at some point between the end of 2009 and the middle of 2010: Should Iran be attacked? American experts agree that this would involve an Israeli strike. It is very unlikely that Obama will be the one dispatching American planes to Natanz.
During the past year, military experts and commentators are increasingly coming around to the view that the Israel Air Force is capable of executing the mission. The Israel Defense Forces was significantly upgraded during the tenure of Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. The goal, it is argued, is not to liquidate the Iranian project but to set it back. According to this line of thought, if an attack, American or Israeli, causes a couple of years' delay in the project it will have achieved its aim. Similarly, before launching the attack on the Iraqi reactor in 1981, Israel did not foresee the chain of events that finally forced Saddam Hussein to forgo his nuclear ambitions.
Iran is likely to respond to an Israeli attack by opening fronts nearby, via Hezbollah from Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Three years after the Second Lebanon War and at the end of a broad process of learning lessons from that conflict, the IDF is quite confident of its ability to deal with Hezbollah. At the same time, it's clear that Israel will be subjected to extensive rocket attacks that can be expected to cover most of the country.
A key question would be Syria's behavior. Israel has a salient interest in having Damascus be no more than a spectator in a confrontation. If the attack on Iran is perceived to have been successful, that is probably how the Syrians will respond.