Friday, April 03, 2009

Israel about to bomb Iran?

Only Obama can save Iran from Israeli bombs | Richard Beeston - Times Online

The Times (London) now makes public what Andrew Sullivan and others at The Atlantic have been getting more and more worried about.

An Israeli colleague was sent on an assignment so secret and sensitive that it was years before he would share the full story with friends.

He was dispatched by Menachem Begin, then the Prime Minister, to European capitals with orders to meet editors, politicians and opinion makers to spread the word that Israel was increasingly concerned about Iraq's nuclear programme and would do anything to stop Saddam Hussein building the bomb. The warnings, intended to prepare Western public opinion, were largely dismissed as sabre-rattling (one editor insisted on discussing a new lavatory system designed on a kibbutz) - until June 1981, when Israeli Air Force F16s bombed the plant to rubble.

A few days ago a chill went down my spine when an articulate and intelligent senior Israeli official made exactly the same argument about Iran's nuclear programme at a briefing in London. He described an Iranian nuclear weapon as an existential threat to the Jewish state, which would defend itself whatever the consequences.

An Israeli attack on Iran would make any current "crisis" seem minimal.

I suppose much significant history, of a kind that can only be explored very obliquely in "alternative results" essays of the type attempted by Nial Ferguson, occurs when some leader manages to deflect a military crisis.

If Obama can deflect an Israeli attack, it will perhaps be his greatest achievement - but the future will not notice.

UPDATE:. See Jeffrey Goldberg's account of his interview with Netayanhu.

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