The danger of an Israeli strike on Iran
The US needs to make it clear it will not tolerate a first strike.
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Benjamin Netanyahu's challenge (intimated in an interview he gave to The Atlantic magazine) smacks of unrealistic bravado and, worse, it appears to be a crude attempt to bully an American president into bombing Iran's nuclear installations.
The world should hope it's a hollow threat.
The consequences of a unilateral Israeli strike would be enormous if not disastrous. Mr. Obama cannot allow himself to be intimidated by Mr. Netanyahu, nor can he wink if the Israeli air force bombs Iran's nuclear facilities.
Israel has acted unilaterally to squash a perceived nuclear threat before. In 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Begin sent fighter jets to knock out Iraq's "Osirak" nuclear reactor. Israel claimed that Saddam Hussein was on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons and that it had no choice but to bomb it out of existence. In 2007, Israel bombed a facility in Syria it claimed was a nuclear reactor.
Any strike on Iranian reactors would be a different matter entirely. Osirak was a lone, poorly guarded, and inoperative nuclear plant that had a year earlier been damaged by an Iranian airstrike. The Iranians have taken considerable precautions to build their facilities on something more solid than desert sand. At present there is but one facility, Bushehr I, but Tehran is gearing up to build an entire network of nuclear plants. Israel would be bombing until the Shah comes home to merely delay what is an unstoppable Iranian nuclear program.
The fallout from Israel's strike on Osirak was serious but limited. But a preemptive strike on Iranian soil would border on catastrophic. Consider:
•Iran has signaled that if attacked, it would close the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 percent of the world's oil flows. This would plunge the world into economic calamity.
•Hezbollah, Iran's proxy army in Lebanon, is believed to have more than 42,000 missiles, according to Defense Minister Ehud Barak – enough to make Israeli cities such as Haifa and Tel Aviv burn like London did during the Nazis' Blitz. Hezbollah is believed to have terror cells in Europe and North America. It has struck in South America, and many terrorism experts believe it is potentially even more dangerous than Al Qaeda. Iran, using this proxy force, would probably unleash it on the world if Netanyahu were to bomb the Bushehr I reactor.