WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, approving a deadly airstrike in Syria on February, pointed out the limits of attacking Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s key backer: Iran. Attacking to defuse Iranian nuclear capability is the easy part; the difficulty lies in the unknown of what comes after.
Relations between the Shia Persian and the Jewish state did exist with economic and military cooperation following Israel’s independence in May 14, 1948.
Following Israel’s entry in to Lebanon’s civil war in 1982, everything changed.
The Shia theocracy gave prominence to Israel’s nemesis: Hezbollah. Since the inception of the Syrian civil war, Iran along with Hezbollah and its nexus of Shia militias in the region has secured southern Syria for Assad, obliterating his opposition, the Free Syrian Army.
Israel uncharacteristically has inched closer to Saudi Arabia, uniting against a common foe. Such alliance is like the toxic scent of what beckons inside a Pandora’s box.
Saudi Arabia is surrounded by Shia opposition forces on its borders and even in its own Eastern Province, where much of its oil riches are bound.
The unpredictable alliance of a pro-Israel American Congress is also troubling. Allowing Israel to take out Iran’s nuclear capability is a reluctant “no,” but that is only for now.
There is no doubt that Israel’s capacity to take out key Iranian nuclear installations in Natanz and Fordo is not even remotely a momentous challenge.
Given their successful air raids on Iraq in 1981, Lebanon in 2006 and Syria in 2003, followed by multiple operations in the Syrian civil war, the Israeli Air Force is in a league of its own.
In response, Iran’s limited and imprecise 1,000-mile-range ballistic missiles and their MIG-29 fighter jets, and Hamas with its Hezbollah rocket operations, are not remotely a match for Israel’s defenses.
But Iran’s strength lies in other means. A key one is shutting down the vital oil route at the Strait of Hormuz that could significantly pull the United States into the conflict and further shoot up oil prices.
Fully aware of the inept Security Council that is often sidelined in contemporary wars, Iran would still bring the matter to the U.N., making the argument that Israel’s attack is an unnecessary violation of international law.
If Iran is attacked and if there are casualties, it will only strengthen the more hawkish clerics and military generals.
That likely would unite Iranians to give the regime a free hand to expand confrontations while dangerously canceling the much accomplished 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the west, quickening Iran’s path to possessing a real nuclear bomb. Diplomacy would not be an option in the new reality of a nuclear-armed Iran from that point on.
The broad consensus among American defense experts and their European counterparts is that the 2015 nuclear deal is in fact working.
President Hassan Rouhani’s administration has responsibly used the capital perks of this deal to bolster the Iranian economy.
Much to the frustration of pro-Rouhani factions, who see the economy faring better, they have had to yield to the opposition of the powerful clerics and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
January protests that may have been motivated by such opposition are also a reminder of the limits of Rouhani’s leadership.
Blessing Israel to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability will not settle the turmoil, but attract far darker forces.
Seven decades of interference in the Middle East has only produced the absence of efficient diplomacy and functional democracy.
Fueling the region are conflicts in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, the awakening of Turkey, a rebellious Qatar, a weakened but active ISIS and a defiant Kurdish movement.
Has Israel considered how much Iran has its fingers in these pockets of realities? More importantly has the U.S. Congress?
Fazle Chowdhury is a scholar at the Global Policy Institute and the author of a new book, “Promises of Betrayals: The History that Shaped the Fears of the Iranian Clerics,” that will be released on April 27. He holds a master’s degree from Boston’s Northeastern University. Readers may write him at GPI, 1510 H Street NW, # 450, Washington, DC 20005.