Israel is a grandmaster in using this expression with perfect timing. Timing is important, because you know if it is articulated even a clutch of minutes too late, you are left with no option but to hit the big guy, which of course would have disastrous consequences. And, alternatively, if you don’t hit, you get badly exposed as the little guy who keeps pretending he is what he isn’t in actual prowess.
Predictably, Israel is once again reviving the ‘threat’ that it is about to attack Iran. Al Jazeera has a useful piece by the well-known American Jewish commentator M J Rosenberg giving the chronicle of such Israeli threats
in current history. Of course, none of those threats in the recent years was carried out. Reason? It’s rather simple: Israeli military and security establishment is inhabited by cooly rational human beings who would know their country’s real military strengths and weaknesses and won’t allow themselves easily to get carried away by insane politicians.
So, why does Israel make a living out of making such hollow verbal threats? Actually, the threats aren’t that hollow, either. They have a greater logic and they serve a purpose. Israel is conveying a message to the political class in Washington : ‘Do something more on the Iran front’. In the present case, too, the timing is important. Nothing horrifies Israel more than the prospect of the negotiations resuming on the Iran nuclear issue. Israel is terrified of the spectre of the ‘5+1′ negotiations gaining traction. Derailing the diplomatic / political track is, in essence, the constant Israeli objective. Israel knows that the logical next steps of the diplomatic track would sooner rather than later bring the Iranian and American diplomats face to face.
So, Israel is resuming the plea, ‘Hold me back’. Read the hilarious AP dispatch conveying the desperate mood in Israel
. The israeli war cry is already beginning to resonate in Washington. The folks on The Hill, who receive generous funding from the Israeli Lobby, are scurrying around seeking more action on Iran. Another set of US sanctions
against Iran seems to be in the works.
The US administration has a problem on its hands. It also needs to pay heed to the warning by the influential Fox News that Iran could prove to be the ‘wild card’
in the 2012 presidential election. President Barack Obama knows this is going to be a tight race — unless Newt Gingrich manages to secure the Republican ticket and makes a fool of himself in the campaign in comparison with whom the incumbent president looks an infinitely better proposition.
The challenge facing Obama is to ride out the wave of the Israel-driven war hysteria and finesse it so as to garner political mileage out of it in the campaign, but without really having to go to a war with Iran (for which, Obama knows better than anyone else on the planet that America lacks the capacity or motivation). Ideally, Obama’s cause would have been well served if he had the option to go for a limited military strike against Iran — like Bill Clinton did by firing the odd cruise missiles at Kandahar from a safe distance — but it is a non-option today unless there is absolute, fool-proof, one hundred percent, verifiable guarantee that Tehran won’t retaliate, which of course is lacking.
Fortunately, Obama has a seasoned politician in defence secretary Leon Panetta. So, Panetta has taken over. He quickly revises his earlier opinion
and now says Iran would have the capacity to make a bomb within an year if it indeed decides
to have one and if that happens
, and if the US intelligence gets evidence
of Iran having a nuclear programme, then, he wouldn’t rule out
exercising any option to prevent Iran on its track. Fair enough. It is a conjecture that doesn’t have to unduly upset Tehran. At the same time, he has not contradicted the Israelis although he may have poured a bit of water on their hysteria over Iran.
Meanwhile, Pentagon has dispatched more warships to the Persian Gulf. The great danger in this ongoing charade is that at some point without any of these able protagonists quite intending it, a spark may appear that may well escalate into an apocalyptic conflagration in no time.
The Israeli fear of having to live on a lonely planet isn’t without basis, though, given Iran’s savviness on the diplomatic front. Iran has complete mastery of the art of diplomacy and trusts its skills to serve the country’s core interests as far as possible. The post-2003 Iraqi saga is a brilliant example.
Unsurprisingly, Iran has already begun making good political capital out of the current visit by the IAEA inspectors to Tehran. The IAEA team includes two carefully hand-picked weapons inspectors who probably set out from Vienna with the brief to somehow put Tehran on the mat. But Iranian hosts are now pleading with them to extend their 3-day visit
beyond January 30 so that they can visit even more nuclear installations and talk to the Iranian scientists and satisfy themselves there is no bomb-making programme.