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‘Atlantic’ Reports Likelihood of Israeli Attack

Goldberg examines Iranian nuclear issue

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month.(Iranian President's Office via Getty Images)

In the September Atlantic’s cover story, Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg reports, “A consensus has emerged that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by next July.” Specifically, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who “does not place great faith in sanctions,” is allowing the West’s efforts at non-military curtailment of Iran’s program to last through December, under the assumption that Iran could achieve capability as early as March 2011.

Goldberg writes,

The Israelis will tell their American counterparts that they are taking this drastic step because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years. They will tell their American colleagues that Israel was left with no choice. They will not be asking for permission, because it will be too late to ask for permission.

There are several truckloads of reporting in the piece, and you should read the whole thing. (My favorite nugget: “[President George W.] Bush would sometimes mock those aides and commentators who advocated an attack on Iran, even referring to the conservative columnists Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol as ‘the bomber boys,’ according to two people I spoke with who overheard this.”) Goldberg explains that the consequences of an Israeli strike could be catastrophic for Israel, for the United States, and for the all-important U.S.-Israeli relationship. Netanyahu is aware of this, of course; if he goes ahead and launches the strike anyway, according to Goldberg, it will be because his father, Ben-Zion Netanyahu (profiled in Tablet Magazine by Jason Epstein), imbued his son with, in Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s words, “a deep sense of his role in Jewish history.”

At the piece’s close, Goldberg seems to come out against an Israeli attack. (For a comprehensive argument in favor of one, here is contributing editor David Samuels in Slate last year.)

Goldberg also argues that the Iranian regime’s consistent assertions of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are properly taken at face-value—meaning “that rational deterrence theory, or the threat of mutual assured destruction, might not apply.”

“Let me tell you a secret,” Netanyahu apparently jokes. “The American military is bigger than Israel’s.” Yet, though President Barack Obama has called a nuclear Iran “unacceptable” and has said nothing is off the table, most Israeli observers doubt he will actually strike Iran. In a crucial nuance, Goldberg reveals that while the United States and Israel actually do see quite closely on the dangers of a nuclear Iran, Israel seems to much more highly value the possibility of postponing that state of affairs.

More thoughts later as responses, inevitably, roll in.

The Point of No Return [Atlantic]
Related: Personal History [Tablet Magazine]
Why Israel Will Bomb Iran [Slate]

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Ira A Feinberg says:

Excellent article and well presented. I agree with Netanyahu that we must hit Iran before they destroy us.

Arab concern, and they seem to have it right, is that the US has no heart for yet another war, even if it was obviously the only strategically necessary war from the start. And so the Arabs, long since having lost faith in the fading giant, America’s tattered defense umbrella dissolving along with its regional credibility, are desperately pinning their hopes on the only likely country with the means, the ability and the will to do the dead, Israel. And Israel, feeling no less concern over a radical Islamic regime, whose religious ideology apparently makes even al-Quaida look like religiously protestant, is no less concerned than the oil-rich Arab states facing Iran across the Persian Gulf, is in the unenviable situation of once again serving American interests by taking on now ascending due to American misguided policy, hegemonic Iran. And of course Israel will be blamed for all of the fallout attendant to that necessary attack, the tattered global economy, diplomatic isolation, military costs. And the US get’s a pass.

Of course once the shooting starts the US will be dragged into the fray; Iran is already threatening Gulf oil shipping. But the US not only will not be blamed for the fallout, but will conveniently be able to point at her hapless ally in the “special relationship,” America’s cat’s paw and stooge in the Middle East, Israel.


In the end Iran will be attacked. The question is, and always has been, whose responsibility is it to carry out the attack? The quote above by the previous commander in chief, whose warrior rhetoric constantly threatened Iran to “back off, or else, that “Bush would sometimes mock those aides and commentators who advocated an attack on Iran,” certainly confirms that the present Obama policy is not only a departure, but a continuation of his predecessor’s policy of avoidance.

But whose responsibility is it to confront Iran? Who is responsible for the Iranian threat?

When Bush attacked Iraq he did so against the advice of his own CIA, Saudi intelligence, and the combined warnings of joint Israeli intelligence, military and political leadership. They all, US, the Arabs, Israel saw clearly what Bush either failed to, or chose to ignore: destroy the Iraqi regime and destabilize Iraq; destabilize Iraq and remove the only credible Arab military holding the Iranians in check.

Once US troops were deployed in Iraq Iran backed the same horse the administration insisted on installing, those most susceptible to Iranian influence, Iraq’s majority Sh’ia. Now Bush had to worry about Iranian support of, for example, Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia in Baghdad. So Bush now had to collaborate with Iran to secure US forces; and six years later, to allow the US to begin to withdraw. Even today, Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs chairman, constantly opposes striking Iran for fear of retaliation against US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan (Iran also arms, trains and attaches officers to the Afghan rebels).

US policy, since 2001, has been focused on protecting the lives of US forces stupidly deployed at two no-win war zones. US policy, since 2001, lost sight of US interests in the far more important strategic Middle East. Think oil; think, Suez; think Russian influence.

BH in Iowa says:

Israel will because Obama has neither the desire nor the backbone.

Once again Israel will rid the world of a murderous tyrant’s nuclear ambition… and they’ll take the heat for it as well.

The US has, unfortunately, a long history of arming and financing (and even of creating) entities that turn out to be its enemies. Think of Egypt’s military dictator (Nasser); think of Cuba’s Castro; think of Iran’s ayatollas; think of Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s Taliban – to name but a few. And where do a lot of the anti-US fighters on the ground come from? Saudi Arabia – a supposedly staunch US ally. However it removed Iraq’s Hussein who was formerly on US payroll and thus created a hell on earth for the civilian Iraqi population.

TheDevilCanDance says:

Ira A Feinberg says:
“Excellent article and well presented. I agree with Netanyahu that we must hit Iran before they destroy us”.

Therefore slaughtering millions of people?. What a beautiful idea.Lol. You must be suffering from the 3rd Reich Stockholm syndrome……Preventive mass murder.

Mr Ira A Feinberg , What have you learn from the holocaust?, If you are a Jew, you are a disgrace and an insult to the millions who lost their lives during the Nazi regime.

Dani Levi says:

Yes, iran will be bombed. Preferrably by a coalition of the US, IS, F and the UK. These nations have all pulled assets together and have been training for the scenario. “Millions” will not be killed, but Iran will be strategically bombed, to shut it down. The current power structure there is leading the nation into a ‘dead’ end anyway. Along with the nuclear sites, the remaining oil refineries will be bombed, in effect closing most petrol stations in the nation. There are some interesting MIT papers out there which write about a possible game plan, and what options there are. I think since Iran is not very developed and lacks the hard and software to fend of a sustained assault by the wests best air forces it will fold after a week of bombs, most of these by cruise missiles and the very latest stealth and electronic counter measurers (ECM). The Iranians literally will not see anything on their radar screens, like the Syrians when IS paid their reactor a flying visit not so long ago. Regardless of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, they are turning into a real pain in the butt in the region and their sub-fascist higher calling will come to an end. Their support and dealings across the region in killing US troops in Iraq and AF is noted and I am sure the Pentagon is looking forward for pay back time. Technically the US can already attack Iran for proof of Iran’s killers is a plenty, from Lebanon, to Iraq to AF. All I hope for is a moonless night and bombs away! May the pilots return safely!
Go ahead , make my day!

francesco says:

Several lines of evidence indicate that most advanced Countries have to take the lead here before hand to avoid a major downfall at later stages.
First, there is the issue of Israel security and middle east stability which is well known and does not deserve further comments.
Second, there is the issue of solidarity to all iranians who are held captives by this dictatorial regime that, instead of spending resources to educate the people and improve the outlook of their society, are entertaining a self-destructive path…..
the longer the waiting the higher the casualties
third, another nuclear power, not to be but already established, Pakistan, has been recently subjected to amazing flood-related devastation. Such events will lead to further impoverishing of Pakistani with a consequential increase of instability and a greater likelihood some Iranian like extremists will seize the power.
if Pakistan will fall in the hands of a regime sympathetic to Tehran’s the danger of a nuclear threat to the region would become immediate.
the strike therefore should be started sooner rather than later.
Though the most advanced Countries shall take the lead, several lines of evidence suggest this will not happen.
Till countries such as China and Russia will keep building Iran’s war potential the economic sanctions clearly will never work.
Europe is weak, disunited and generally quite unwilling to take part to military aggressive actions.
The USA is led by a weak, rhetorical, utopistic President and to most people, is yet unclear, where all the talkings are gonna take America to. A weak, undecided America is the greatest threat to World stability.
A sudden, fast, precise, nearly casualty-free attack by air, such as that launched for example on Tripoli after the Pan AM Lockerby bombing, will nearly go unnoticed, cut the cancer at the root and even before the headlines will report it, it will be completed.
Israel can do it and will have to do it because noone else will.

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‘Atlantic’ Reports Likelihood of Israeli Attack

Goldberg examines Iranian nuclear issue

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