Yesterday I described how Iran was making fools of the West, and why Israel cannot depend on the US to protect it.
Today, Brett Stephens reminds us that Iran has been doing the same thing since 1979, and our side keeps falling for it. In a highly memorable simile, he says
Altogether, the regime has treated the West the way a shark would a squid: with the combination of appetite and contempt typically reserved for the congenitally spineless.
He also makes another point, which had occurred to me too:
The Iranians may also be gambling that any Israeli strike will prove costly, unpopular and ineffectual, thereby tagging Israel as the aggressor while crippling its deterrent power in the long run. That’s more of a gamble, but from the Iranian perspective it may be one well-worth taking.
It is indeed a big gamble, taking on the Israeli Air Force and special forces. But on thinking further about it, it may not be as crazy as it looks.
Analysts agree that a strike against the Iranian facilities will delay, not prevent, the attainment of nuclear weapons. They also agree that the capabilities of Israel are more limited than those of the US. There is also the fact that Israeli leaders will hold back in order to avoid civilian casualties.
It is possible that the Iranians think that they can keep enough highly enriched uranium and other equipment safe from an Israeli attack that the delay in their program would be a matter of months rather than years. Keep in mind that we do not have perfect intelligence about the amount of uranium and its degree of enrichment that they have stockpiled.
Once Israel attacks Iran, it can respond with the full force of its own missile arsenal and Hizballah’s. Coordinated attacks, which could include a Palestinian uprising, could do serious damage to Israel’s economy and morale. On the diplomatic front, Israel would be branded as the aggressor, the US would be furious, and probably Israel would not be given an opportunity to strike a crushing return blow at Hizballah and Iran.
This is an old schoolyard trick: get your opponent to hit you, then hit him as hard as you can and fall down crying as adult supervision approaches.
Is this a likely scenario? Who knows?
One way to counteract this strategy is to pull Iranian teeth in advance by a broad-based attack on Iranian military and IRGC assets, rather than a simple surgical strike on the nuclear facilities. It would be necessary to hit both Iran and Hizballah. The question is whether Israel has the capability to do this with her conventional forces.
I’m glad that I’m not a member of Israel’s Security Cabinet, which has to take decisions like this.