Jacob Heilbrunn thinks there may be an “October Surprise”—a U.S. bombing operation against Iran. The point would be to outflank Romney who has done all he could possibly do to show his absolute fealty to the Jewish state.
Romney observed in December, he would never, ever criticize Israel. Instead, he would get on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu and ask, “What would you like me to do?” So it’s fair to say that Romney would outsource his foreign policy to Netanyahu when it comes to Israel and its enemies.
Obama, on the other hand, has had at best a strained relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu, and, as Heilbrunn notes, his administration “has been doing everything in its power to dissuade Israel from speedy action. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s visit to Israel was another sign that the administration is trying to reassure Israel of its commitment to its security.”
The downside of an attack on Iran would be $200 oil in an economy that is currently the main issue in the election. I rather doubt that Obama would want to take the chance that Americans would be really enthusiastic about yet another war against a far away nation that only the most fevered neocon would portray as an imminent threat to the U.S.
My basic view of Obama is that he is a sincere (anti-White) leftist in the age of globalism and multiculturalism. His natural sympathies are far more on the side of the non-White masses of the Third World, including the Palestinians, than they are for expending American military power yet again on behalf of the American Jewish community. The reality of Israel as an apartheid state bent on ethnic cleansing and reducing the Palestinians to an impoverished, dependent, and powerless people is fundamentally repulsive to a sincere leftist.
Nevertheless, Obama understands the power of Jews in the American media and the political process, not the least of which is the huge role that wealthy Jews play as donors to the Democratic Party. Although he hasn’t gone quite as far as Romney in towing the AIPAC line, Obama retains strong support among Jewish Democrats, such as Alan Dershowitz, and I suspect that in the end around 70% of American Jews will vote Democrat compared to around 80% in 2008.
Nevertheless, from Israel’s perspective the prospect of an Obama victory prior to dealing with Iran is problematic. Without having to worry about another election, Obama’s gut instincts as an honest leftist come into play, and I suspect he would do everything he could to avoid a confrontation with Iran. His difficult personal relationship with Netanayahu and his lack of sympathy with the Israeli ethnonationalist right that is calling the shots would make him very reluctant to sign on to a war with Iran.
Nor would a newly elected Romney be a sure thing for Israel. Fundamentally, I rather doubt that Romney has any principles at all, other than to get elected. The fact that Romney has a reputation of waffling surely can’t be reassuring to the Israelis. A NYTimes article phrased it this way:
Mr. Netanyahu feels that he will have less leverage if President Obama is re-elected, and that if Mr. Romney were to win, the new president would be unlikely to want to take on a big military action early in his term. (“U.S. and Israel Intensify Talks on Iran Options,” Aug. 1, 2012)
As the title of the NYTimes article indicates, there is certainly an uptick in Israeli pressure on the issue. Recently Congress passed yet another Iran sanctions bill by a margin of 421-6 in the House and by unanimous consent in the Senate. This bill takes the Israeli position that the mere capability of making nuclear weapons is a threat to the United States. Obama will doubtless sign the bill, but has discretion on implementing it.
Putting this together, I conclude that Israel and its fifth column are highly motivated to provoke a confrontation with Iran before the election because that is the most assured way of getting U.S. support which is necessary for Israel to achieve its goals. (The NYTimes article notes, “The Pentagon … has the munitions, bombers, missiles, stealth aircraft and drones that would cause far more extensive damage.”)
I suggest also that Iran’s nuclear capability is far from the only issue. Iran is a major problem for Israel because of its support for Hezbollah and its generally antagonistic stance toward Israel, its alliance with Syria, etc. Even without nuclear weapons, Iran is a prime target of Israel, just as Iraq was. In the same way that Iraq’s fictitious WMD were a creation of Jewish operatives in the Dept. of Defense (Wolfowitz, Feith, Schulsky, etc.; see here, p. 48ff) working in cooperation with Israel, the current hazy accusations about Iran’s nuclear program fulfill a function even if they are not true. Indeed, as Pat Buchanan notes, “the unanimous judgment of the U.S. intelligence community, declared in 2007 and affirmed in 2011, that Iran has abandoned any program to build nuclear weapons.”
Israel may well not believe that Iran has any intention of building nuclear weapons and nevertheless strongly desire a confrontation. But if so, the prediction would be that attacks on Iran would not be confined to possible sites related to nuclear weapons building, but a general attack that, as with the wars in Lebanon of 1982 and 2006, is intended to cause massive damage to Iran’s infrastructure and destroy its economy. For this, if not for simply attacking possible nuclear sites, the aid of the United States would be essential.
So the trick for Israel is to provoke a confrontation in such a manner that the U.S. would necessarily be drawn in. An obvious tactic here would be a false flag attack on a U.S. military asset that could credibly be blamed on Iran. Israel has a long history of false flag operations, most recently an operation in 2007 and 2008 in which Mossad agents posed as CIA operatives to recruit Jundallah, a Pakistan-based Sunni group, to assassinate Iranians.
If Israel did attack Iran during the presidential campaign, there would be enormous pressure for the U.S. to become involved, even without any attack by Iran on U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf or other U.S. targets. Romney would criticize Obama if he did nothing and there would be a veritable firestorm of media pressure. Obama would have to act. (Of course, if Israel was in real danger, the U.S. would get involved even if it was not during a presidential election, as occurred in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war when Israel was resupplied with weapons during the conflict. In the present situation, however, Israel’s primary need for the U.S. is simply to be able to do enough damage to Iran to make it worth the effort.) And because Obama would be seen as supporting an ally rather than initiating the conflict, public opinion would be more likely to support the administration. Americans have a long history of supporting the administration in times of war.
Should be an interesting three months. Israel may decide in the end not to go ahead with the operation, but if it is intent on doing so, now’s the time.