Will Israel attack Iran?

Will Israel attack Iran?

To be frank, no one expected a miracle from the talks on Iran’s nuclear program held in Istanbul on April 14, but they went reasonably well.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign and defense policy commissioner, representing the P5+1 countries (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany), said Saeed Jalili, Iran’s negotiator on nuclear issues, considered the meeting to have been positive, and decided to have another round on May 23, possibly in Baghdad.

It is not 100 percent certain yet, but it would be an interesting decision to hold talks on Iran’s nuclear program in Baghdad. The decision to hold a prestigious conference there would mean that all of the P5+1 countries, but especially the U.S., consider this move to be part of the normalization of Iraq, and Iran wants to help to raise the political profile of the government of Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite politician. It should also be kept in mind that the first of the series of energy wars in the region was the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

People do not expect a miracle from the Baghdad talks, but hope that they will achieve something more towards reaching a peaceful settlement to the nuclear problem, which has been escalating political tension in the region for some years now. Right before the talks in Istanbul, Iran performed its largest-ever joint military exercises in the Gulf region, where two U.S. aircraft carriers are posted, as well warships bearing other Western flags and that of Israel.

Israel’s response to the Istanbul talks has not been enthusiastic at all: They think the talks only worked for Iran, and enabled that country to steal more time to continue with their uranium-enrichment program. Over the weekend the Israeli media began to report -- referring to unnamed official sources -- that if the May 23 talks do not yield results, Israel may strike Iran.

Israel might be physically capable of carrying out such a strike, so it could be possible on paper. But could Israel, and the U.S., as Israel’s number-one ally, face the consequences of such an attack, which would in no way finish off Iran? Also, is there a consensus in Israeli public opinion that it would serve Israel’s best interests to attack Iran? The answer to both of the questions is the same: probably not.

There is of course the declared determination of U.S. President Barack Obama not to become involved in any new military conflict, at least until the elections in November. Plus, for the first time in modern times, there is the real and possibility that an economic sanction program could result in an agreement, not in a war. The oil sanctions on Iran are likely to bring Iran to the negotiation table, despite Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi statement yesterday that his country has enough contracts and resources to cope with the sanctions. 

Yesterday was Army Day in Iran, with all of its military show, and what Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said was novel: “If the west wants to build trust” he said, “it should begin by reconsidering its sanctions, because that could help speed up the process of reaching a solution.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded saying, “The burden of action falls on the Iranians … We’ll respond accordingly.”

So the negotiating positions have been revealed, and we can assume that the bargaining has started. Under the circumstances, an Israeli attack on Iran would be a very dangerous venture, which the U.S. would like to avoid more than anyone else.

middle east, nuke,