The likelihood of Israeli air strikes aimed at derailing Iran’s advance toward a nuclear arsenal have “significantly decreased,” according to The New York Times. For now.
That sounds like good news. For now.
If Israel attacks Iran, among the likely consequences would be a severe disruption in the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz — and a serious blow to the global economy.
The goal of Israel, the United States and indeed the rest of the world should remain finding some sure way short of military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
But while the threat of an imminent Israeli assault on Iran has temporarily been minimized, that doesn’t mean the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran has permanently been averted.
It would be dangerously naive to trust the leaders of Iran, a major state sponsor of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, when they insist that their nuclear ambitions are entirely focused on energy production.
Still, it’s encouraging to know that many prominent observers have concluded that attacking Iran isn’t necessary — yet. Negotiations between representatives of Iran and those from the U.S., China, Germany, France, Britain and Russia less than three weeks ago in Istanbul reportedly made welcome progress. Iran seemed receptive to providing access for effective international inspections of its nuclear program.
The U.S.-led warning of stiffened economic sanctions, starting on July 1, surely helped prompt that more conciliatory position by Iran.
And in Israel, some prominent military and intelligence voices have spoken out over the last few weeks against the hard line taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
During a trip to the U.S. in March, Mr. Netanyahu repeatedly stressed that Israel was “the master of its fate” — and that it required no other nation’s approval to defend itself.
However, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Israel’s army chief of staff, suggested last week that Mr. Netanyahu has overstated Iran’s nuclear threat. And Yuval Diskin, who once ran Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security service, warned that attacking Iran could actually strengthen, not weaken, its resolve to get nukes.
Some Israeli political analysts say that the rising probabilty of Prime Minister Netanyahu scheduling primary elections sooner than previously planned — possibly as early as September — lowers the chance of an attack on Iran.
But Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak dismissed that notion in a post on his Facebook page Wednesday (seriously), writing that “elections will not affect deliberations of the professional echelon in everything regarding the Iranian issue.” Mr. Barak, a former prime minister, added that force remains among Israel’s “options on the table.”
Still, the next likely step seems not to be an Israeli attack on Iran, but more negotiations three weeks from now in Baghdad.
Dennis Ross, who formerly handled Iran policy for the Obama administration, told the Times: “While there isn’t an agreement between the U.S. and Israel on how much time, there is an agreement that there is some time to give diplomacy a chance.”
But giving peace a chance must not mean giving Iran a clear track toward a nuclear arsenal.
And without full access for comprehensive inspections of Iran’s nuclear program, time is still on its side.