Reuters reports that both the Israeli prime minister and defense minister want to eliminate Iranian nuclear sites before U.S. elections in November. These threats seek to achieve two aims: to scare Iran into abandoning its nuclear program (a prospect which seems unlikely) and to explore the possibility of attacking Iran while Americans are preoccupied with choosing their next president.
Although each scenario is different, history suggests that if Israel really wanted to bomb Iranian nuclear sites, it would do it. In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility. In 2007, Israel attacked Syria’s al-Kibar nuclear reactor. Israel also has a pattern of launching lightning-fast preemptive strikes when it believes its security is in peril, evident during the 1967 War and the 2008 war with Hamas.
In each of these cases, Israel did not broadcast its intentions. The media did not analyze the pros and cons of conducting such operations for months and years.
There is no shortage of commentary from the Israeli and international press about the prospect of an Israeli strike against Iran. The Iranian regime will refuse to yield just as Saddam did not back down in 2003 after President Bush threatened to invade Iraq.
After all these years, it’s not entirely clear what Israel seeks to gain from this continued rhetoric which thus far has proven unsuccessful. But if history serves any lesson, the time for genuine concern is when Israel stops announcing its intentions and remains silent.