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Repercussions of an Israeli attack on Iran

An Atlantic article argues there's a high chance of an Israeli attack on Iran next summer. What might happen next if they did?

By Staff writer / August 12, 2010


If Israel is likely to decide to attack Iran next summer, as argued in an Atlantic article by Jeffrey Goldberg out this week, the big question is, what happens in the aftermath?

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A common view among strategists and political analysts is that the US will be held responsible by Iran and much of the Muslim world. Tehran is expected to use the relationships it has carefully cultivated with militants in Iraq and Afghanistan to lash out at US troops, and some say it could provide fighters in Afghanistan with the surface-to-air missiles they crave.

"There are segments of the [Iranian] regime, parts of the military apparatus especially, that will welcome an attack, the heightening of tensions and even confrontation," says Kaveh Ehsani, a political scientist who studies Iran at DePaul University in Chicago. "Their strategy to react to this is to export conflict – to Afghanistan and Iraq and Lebanon and Gaza… they’ll raise hell anywhere they can, like in Saudi Arabia."

THREE REASONS Israel will attack Iran

But how big the Iranian reaction would be remains an open question. More US soldiers would die, that much is almost certain. But how many is unclear. And while Iran can bottle up tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and drive up world oil prices, or encourage Hezbollah in southern Lebanon to rain missiles on Israel, analysts are divided on whether the country will take the plunge.

US response could be far more threatening than Israeli one

Wayne White, former deputy director of the Middle East desk at the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, says a there's a complex web of calculations being made by both the Israelis and the Iranians, and that Iran may show restraint in the wake of an attack, not wanting to be drawn into a conflict that could threaten the Islamic revolution.

"The Iranians might also appreciate that if they up the ante ... there could be more blowback on them," he says, pointing out that a dramatic Iranian attack on US interests, or a precipitous withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and UN nuclear monitoring could provoke a US response far more threatening to Iran than the limited strike Israel is capable of.