These days you can read as many different scenarios regarding the likelihood that Israel will attack Iran's nuclear facilities as there are experts putting them forth. History, however, may have already written the script.
In a recent interview with Der Spiegel; Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert asked, "Why do you need to enrich uranium if you don't have the facilities that can make use of this uranium for civilian purposes?" Iran does have such plants, but both have been in various stages of construction and delay since 1992 and neither has ever produced a watt of electricity.
The August edition of Energy Tribune takes on the question of an Israeli military action against Iranian facilities refining fissionable materials for the development of nuclear weapons. John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is quoted saying that Israel has "a window" in which to conduct the strike. It would be between "the day after the November 4 U.S. election and closes with the swearing-in of George W. Bush's successor on January 20, 2009."
On August 10, the Jerusalem Post quoted U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying, "We don't say yes or no to Israeli military operations. Israel is a sovereign country." The U.S. election in November could have a tremendous effect on whether Israel acts or not. Sen. McCain support of Israel is not in doubt. An Obama administration would be filled with officials whose antipathy to Israel is well known.
Iran's Islamic Revolution began in 1979 when it took U.S. diplomats hostage and held them for 444 days. They were returned the same day Ronald Reagan was sworn into office. When Saddam Hussein declared war on Iran in 1980, he had the understandable backing of the United States, but the war ground to a stalemate in 1988 after costing both nations hundreds of thousands of casualties.
The experience left Iran's leaders in a cautious mood. Militarily Iran has remained a provocateur, not an active belligerent. The Iranians have preferred to fight proxy wars with Israel via their support for Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, and Hamas, based in Gaza. Even their involvement in Iraq has been through proxies. There would appear to be limits to the courage of the mullahs that run Iran with an iron hand.
Militarily, Iran would prove to be an extremely difficult nation to invade or conquer. Thus, an Israeli strike would be limited to destroying or at least significantly delaying Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions. At issue is when Iran would be capable of manufacturing and delivering its own nukes.
The next question to be answered is what benefit Iran's leaders would perceive in launching a nuclear attack on Israel? Any use of nuclear weapons by any nation would come with a huge price. Iran is already a pariah nation despite its oil.
Since 1979 the Iran government has deemed the U.S. the Big Satan and Israel the Little Satan. When people spend nearly thirty years shouting "Death to America" and "Death to Israel", history teaches that it is folly to ignore them or to suggest reasons to believe that it's just bluster.
Writing in the August issue of Energy Tribune, Michael J. Economides and Peter C. Glover bluntly say, "We see no reason to change our opinion that an Israeli or Western air-strike is the only realistic way to prevent Iran's ideologically-driven extremist regime."
These two experts on energy and geopolitics estimate that $55.00 of the price per barrel of imported oil represents "geopolitical tensions, fear, and resulting speculation." Put another way, the United States of America is sending billions to oil-producing Middle Eastern nations (and other oil producing nations) as the price we pay for the threat that Iran is presumed to pose. That threat would escalate if it gained nuclear weapons.
History, however, offers another scenario since the end of World War II. Despite the nuclear capability of the former Soviet Union and later Red China, the U.S. and other nations preferred a patient containment policy which reduced the potential of a major war. As we are witnessing in Georgia, the Russian quest for power is never static and always subject to change.
An Israeli attack, if followed by the collapse of the Iranian regime, would likely result in a relatively brief disruption in the flow of oil from the Middle East. The opening of the Strait of Hormuz would become an international priority, but the U.S. is not likely to be seriously affected because it imports much of its oil from Canada, Central and South America. It would surely increase the growing demands to open up ANWR in Alaska and authorization of off-shore oil exploration.
In 1981 Israel put an end to Saddam Hussein's ambitions when it destroyed the Osirak reactor in 1981 and then hit a Syrian nuclear facility in September 2007. Olmert will be gone as Israel's prime minister by the end of September.
A new government, even one led by Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu, is not likely to take on the huge risks involved in an attack on Iran without explicit reassurances of U.S. approval and possible involvement. The problem for Israel is that such an attack would trigger war by a heavily rearmed Hezbollah based in Lebanon and a Gaza-based Hamas.
The irony is that all of Iran's Arab neighbors would love to see Iran removed as an obstacle to peace in the region. Moreover, Iran represents Shiite Islam whereas other Muslim nations with the exception of Iraq are the majority Sunni sect. No love lost there.
Speculation will exist as long as the ayatollahs and the crazed Mamoud Amadinejad remain in power. In the end, like the sudden invasion of Georgia, the issue will be resolved by action, not talk.