In recent months, tensions between Israel and Iran have been on the rise and speculation has been growing that Israel may attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Although Iran says its nuclear program is meant to develop energy, it has refused to negotiate guarantees that the program is peaceful, giving rise to security concerns – particularly in Israel, where leaders think that Iran’s nuclear program is a threat to the continued existence of Israel. Recently, discussion in both the U.S. and Israel has turned to the issue of whether an Israeli strike can do enough damage to the Iranian program to be worth the risks.
Military analysts at the Pentagon say that an Israeli attack meant to setback Iran’s nuclear program would be a highly complex operation. Michael V. Hayden, prior CIA director from 2006 to 2009, said that “airstrikes capable of seriously setting back Iran’s nuclear program were ‘beyond the capacity’ of Israel’” However, military analysts have also said that if the United States decides to get involved, it has the military power to effectuate an attack of the scale desired by Israel.
Last week, America’s top intelligence official told a senate committee that a successful bombing of Israel may set Iran’s nuclear development program back by one or two years at most. Most experts agree that Iran now possesses so much technological information that no air campaign could destroy its ability to someday produce a nuclear weapon. Both the United States and Russia have advised against a preemptive attack on Iran, but Israeli’s foreign minister has said that the state will not give in to pressure in deciding whether to attack Iran.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged in a recent television interview that Israel and the U.S. have divergent views on the best course of action on Iran. “I’m confident that (Israel’s leaders) understand our concerns that a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives,” Dempsey told CNN. However, Dempsey did not go so far as to say that the U.S. has persuaded the Israelis that it was best not to attack Iran. The White House has said that it believes the intense punitive sanctions imposed on Iran have had some impact and that there is still time for a peaceful resolution to be reached. Even so, many in the U.S. fear that Israel will act unilaterally, and that the United States will be sucked into finishing the job. Others believe that increased U.S. involvement in the Middle-East will cause an increase in oil prices and endanger Obama’s reelection campaign.