Now that oil prices have risen worldwide, and might rise higher, Israel is being pressured from all sides to wait for sanctions to work against Iran before considering a military operation, including the possibility of an attack within the next few months. In particular, Britain, China, Russia and the United States have been making noises, in a coordinated response, that should Israel attack Iran militarily, the consequences for her, and the region in general, would be severe.
Here is what the U.S.'s top general, Martin Dempsey, said, a position obviously endorsed by his superiors in the White House:
The United States believes talk of military strikes against Iran's nuclear program is "premature" and has advised Israel that an attack would be counterproductive, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says.
In an interview aired Sunday on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Gen. Martin Dempsey said U.S. officials aren't convinced Iran has decided to pursue nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, economic and diplomatic sanctions are taking a toll on the Islamic republic, he said.
"On that basis, I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us," Dempsey said.General Dempsey also added that Iran was a "rational actor," which leaves many people scratching their heads, wondering how he came by that conclusion. Here's what Britain's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said, again endorsed by the prime minister's office at 10 Downing Street:
In today’s interview, Mr Hague says that the British Government has urged Israel not to strike. He said that Iran being “attacked militarily” would have “enormous downsides”.
“We are very clear to all concerned that we are not advocating military action,” he said. “We support a twin-track strategy of sanctions and pressure and negotiations on the other hand.”As for China, theirs is the ever-pragmatic response, with the Foreign Ministry saying:
He added: “We are not favouring the idea of anybody attacking Iran at the moment.”
We have consistently upheld and urged dialogue and negotiation as the only way to resolve disputes between countries, while force only escalates confrontation and instability," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at the regular news conference.Russia's response to any impending attack, endorsed by the Kremlin, is as predictable as it is economically expedient:
"The scenario of military action against Iran would be catastrophic for the region and possibly the whole system of international relations," Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told a news conference.The world's nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, left without any agreement and is unlikely to reach one anytime soon. What needs scrutiny is the morally untenable position of these powerful nations, and lesser middle powers as well, who collectively seem more concerned about stopping Israel than stopping Iran. It seems, as some astute commentators have noted, including Emily B. Landau of Haaretz "that the Obama administration has begun to resign itself not only to the fact that Iran will continue to enrich uranium, but also to recognition that the Islamic republic could ultimately build a nuclear bomb."
His comments came after a five-strong delegation from the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) left empty-handed following two days of talks focusing on suspected military aspects of the country's nuclear programme.
Equally important, they, the military leaders of these powerful nations, have cast doubt on the success of any military operation or surgical strike, which no one including Israel denies. The obstacles are real and many. To be sure, as military analysts have noted, it would involve flying upwards of 100 planes in a 2,000-mile round trip over hostile territory and requiring mid-air refueling of its fighter jets. All military campaigns have risk associated with it, and the outcome cannot be known in advance. Yet, the outcome of a nuclear-armed Iran can be known, argues Matthew Kroenig in an article in Foreign Affairs (Jan/Feb 2012):
But skeptics of military action fail to appreciate the true danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to U.S. interests in the Middle East and beyond. And their grim forecasts assume that the cure would be worse than the disease — that is, that the consequences of a U.S. assault on Iran would be as bad as or worse than those of Iran achieving its nuclear ambitions. But that is a faulty assumption. The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.I hope that sanctions and political pressure will work, since military action is always the last resort of a rational and sane nation. Although it hasn't worked yet. So the chief question remains: But, what if nothing deters the Islamic Republic of Iran, in effect a theocracy, from its nuclear ambitions and its stated plans to destroy the State of Israel?
This week, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Tehran's nuclear course would not change regardless of international sanctions, assassinations or other pressures. As he put it:
With God's help, and without paying attention to propaganda, Iran's nuclear course should continue firmly and seriously ... Pressures, sanctions and assassinations will bear no fruit. No obstacles can stop Iran's nuclear work.There is a ticking bomb in the making, and such is not a fantasy of warmongers. What happens next in this high-stakes game of international politics and diplomacy only a few people can know. What is certain, as always, is that the Jewish state might be left with little options, when facing an intractable, implacable and irrational enemy, who wants to deny the Jewish People's existence. In such situations, the Jewish People will find out whom her friends really are, as it did in the 1930s. Truly, we are living in serious historical times.