Iran and Israel trade threats of War

President Obama’s decision not to meddle in the revolution taking place in Iran took on greater significance today when the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard promised to attack Israel’s nuclear facilities with a missile attack if Israel attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities.

As Obama was attempting a new initiative in the middle east,sending George Mitchell, Robert Gates and advisor Jim Jones to the region to get talks started, Iran issued a warning to Israel if they should attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“Our missile capability puts all of the Zionist regime within Iran’s reach to attack,” Jaafari, Iran’s military chief said. He promised it would mean war.

The possibility of Israel attacking is very real. Ignoring world condemnation including condemnation from the United States and President Reagan in 1981, Israel attacked Sadaam Hussein’s nuclear facility in Iraq and destroyed it with an air attack. Israel is well aware that events proved them right and the whole world wrong which will only re-enforce a decision to attack Iran if Obama should be unsuccessful in getting Iran to stop its nuclear program.

It is unlikely that Netanyahu is going to allow Obama to set the agenda. He has already publicly rejected Obama’s call to stop new settlements saying explicitly that he “does not take orders from the United States” and has said repeatedly that Israel reserves the right to defend itself.

Israel regards Iran as its biggest threat and for good reason: it was Ahmadinejad who has repeatedly made speeches threatening to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth”, and Netanyahu has made it clear he will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons.

Jaafari has made it clear that any strike by Israel on Iran’s nuclear facilities will mean war.

All this ratchets up the threat of a bigger war between Israel and Iran since, unlike the1981 air strike against Sadaam’s nuclear facility, any Israeli strke against Iran is going to have to include a bigger and more comprehensive strike,taking out Iran’s capability to retaliate.

With the potential for a change in Iran’s government to a more moderate one as a result of the upheavals and protests over the rigged Iranian election, Obama’s decision
“not to meddle”, a stance he has been roundly criticized for, looks even bigger.

His decision to do nothing to rally world support or recommend sanctions for the brutal crackdown on the demonstrators,or to do whatever he could to try and further destabilize the current weakened regime and give whatever support he could to the moderate forces in Iran, has looked even more consequential as tensions between Israel and Iran escalate.

With Gates and George Mitchell visting Israel this week to discuss the threat of a nuclear Iran, and Israel and Iran trading public threats, the stakes have gotten even higher.