It is increasingly apparent that there is no appetite in either the United States or Israel at this time to go to war with Iran by attacking the Iranian nuclear facilities.
For the time being, the June elections in Iran are used as a reason not to attack, on the grounds that the intentions of the new government should be ascertained first, even though the struggle will be between clerical extremists and non-clerical extremists. Both sides have proclaimed that developing a nuclear capacity is Iran's right. The most fanatical elements would actively welcome a nuclear Armageddon as hastening the advent of the Mahdi.
The United States has developed an updated bunker-buster bomb, capable supposedly of penetrating even the Fordow and Natanz facilities. Secretary of Defense Hagel was careful to emphasize this capability to Defense Minister Ayalon during the latter's visit to Washington. The purpose, obviously, was to convince the Israelis that those facilities can be destroyed any time, and therefore there is no need for pre-emptive action in the foreseeable future.
The successful tests of the Arrow-3 anti-missile missile in Israel presumably mean that at some point not long from now Israel will be able to protect itself from nuclear attack by Iran (or anyone else) while retaliating in kind. This was the calculation, after the Reagan administration began development of the "star wars" anti-missile system, that convinced the Gorbachev government in Moscow that "mutual assured destruction" (MAD) was no longer a viable strategy for them, and, along with several other measures taken by the US government in pursuance of a well-designed and comprehensive strategic plan, led to the end of the Cold War with a US victory, and eventually to the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc and the Soviet Union itself.
The result of all of this is to make an attack by the US, Israel, or both, very unlikely any time in the foreseeable future, and very possibly at all. Is this a good or bad thing? The answer depends on the reliability of the enhanced bunker buster and the schedule for the production of the Arrow--3 in quantity. The Iranian election is only relevant if it leads to all--out conflict between the two reactionary factions in that country. This is a possibility, and if it happens, the eventual outcome and its significance for the strategic balance in the region is unknowable at this time.
Norman A. Bailey, Ph.D., is Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 9, 2013
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