Israeli Bombing of Iran is “Not a pretty picture to contemplate, but a likely scenario”

Jeffery Goldberg‘s Point of No Return article in September’s Atlantic Monthly continues to stir up debate.

Tom Ricks, Center for a New American Security (CNAS) senior fellow, adds his take to the list of disastrous scenarios which could follow an Israeli attack on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

On his Foreign Policy blog, The Best Defense, Ricks reflects on a note received from (ret.) Col. Peter Mansoor–Gen. David Petraeus’ executive officer from February 2007 to May 2008–in which Mansoor outlines the potential fallout from an Israeli strike and, rather ominously, describes such an attack as “a likely scenario”. Ricks had been coming to the conclusion that, “…the more Israeli officials chat with journalists about [bombing Iran], the less likely I think it is to happen,” but Mansoor’s note appears to be giving him second thoughts.

The note, reposted on Ricks’ blog, reads:

“Whether it is Israel or the United States that attacks Iranian nuclear facilities, the Iranians will respond by trying to close the Straits of Hormuz and unleashing terror attacks in the ME and around the world. In the event of an attack, the United States will have to destroy Iran’s capacity to close the straits, which means destroying their anti-ship missile batteries, submarines, aircraft, and the assortment of small boats and mine layers that can wreak havoc on  Gulf shipping. Israel will no doubt have to invade southern Lebanon again to suppress the inevitable barrage of missiles from Hezbollah. The West will have to go on high alert against terror attacks. The oil shock alone will no doubt spiral the West into a double dip recession/depression.

Not a pretty picture to contemplate, but a likely scenario. Despite the crowd of academics in the United States that says we can live with an Iranian bomb, Israel will not allow the Iranians to go nuclear — at least, not while a Holocaust denier who has made pointed threats against the Jewish state remains in power.”

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.


One Comment

  1. Well, for some time I maintained that an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program was likely, but my view has changed over the past few weeks. During the final two years of the Bush administration I was telling my conservative friends in particlular that there was zero chance of a US strike on Iran, because the situation in Iraq was so tenuous. (When it became less tenuous after the spring of 2008 I kept to the same view, because electoral politics precluded US action.) I was right. I also saw no chance of Israeli action during the same time period, and for the same reasons. (I am on the record as saying all this.)

    Beginning in 2009 I became increasingly concerned that Israel, frustrated by the Obama administration (and perhaps somewhat contemptuous of it as well) was planning to hit Natanz and perhaps other targets as well. My timeline looked to the year after the US midterm elections in 2010 as the period of greatest danger. However, in the past few weeks I’ve sensed a different mood in Tel Aviv. I can’t necessarily point to specific words or actions, but I have the strong feeling that war is off the table, at least for the rest of Barack Obama’s first term. The potential gains from an Israeli strike are limited, indeed problematical. The potential blowback is enormous. Moreover, I believe Washington (although it obviously can’t admit this) has in effect interposed its veto on Israel over this issue.

    I would rate the odds of an Israeli attack on Iran over the next 24 months at 30-40% and declining. What may happen if a Republican gets elected in 2012 is another matter. But until then I believe we have a game of chicken going on. Three months ago I thought an Israeli attack likely. Today I’d bet money that no strikes on Iran (Israeli or US) will be conducted between now and the next US presidential election.

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