Editorials today in the Wall Street Journal and the Jerusalem Post both detect signs of a hardening ot Western resolve to stop Iran from going nuclear. The Post cites inidcations from Germany and France that stiffer penalties are in the offing if Iran doesn’t curb its nuclear program, while the Journal points to the "crippling" sanctions the Americans are threatening to raise in the U.N. Security Council.
But the Journal also makes the obvious point that the more the world’s democracies drag their feet on Iran, the more likely an Israeli strike becomes.
Israel also looks warily on the Obama Administration’s policy of diplomatic pleading with Iran, which comes after six years of failed diplomatic overtures by the European Union and Bush Administration. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s suggestion in July that the U.S. would extend a "defense umbrella" over its allies in the Middle East "once [Iranians] have a nuclear weapon" may have been a slip of the lip. But Israelis can be forgiven for wondering if the U.S. would sooner accept a nuclear Iran as a fait accompli than do whatever is necessary to stop it.
It’s no wonder, then, that the Israeli military has been intensively—and very publicly—war-gaming attack scenarios on Iran’s nuclear installations. This has included sending warships through the Suez Canal (with Egypt’s blessing), testing its Arrow antiballistic missile systems and conducting nation-wide emergency drills. U.S. and Israeli military officials we’ve spoken to are confident an Israeli strike could deal a significant blow to Iran’s programs, even if some elements would survive. The longer Israel waits, however, the more steps Iran can take to protect its installations.
The consequences of an Israeli attack are impossible to predict, but there is no doubt they would implicate U.S. interests throughout the Middle East. Iran would accuse the U.S. of complicity, whether or not the U.S. gave its assent to an attack. Iran could also attack U.S. targets, drawing America into a larger Mideast war.
Short of an Islamist revolution in Pakistan, an Israeli strike on Iran would be the most dangerous foreign policy issue President Obama could face, throwing all his diplomatic ambitions into a cocked hat. Yet in its first seven months, the Administration has spent more diplomatic effort warning Israel not to strike than it has rallying the world to stop Iran.