What are the chances that Israel will attack Iran?
The situation with Iran doesn’t seem like it is improving. Moving closer and closer to the capabilities of producing a nuclear warhead, the country is also moving to secure the production sites; making any attack increasingly difficult. So far, diplomacy between Iran and the world’s powers has failed, with talks in Moscow failing to bring a positive result. Israel is once again threatening to take action, but despite this, I still think that any attack is unlikely under the current circumstances.
Any war or conflict between the two countries would be bad for Israel. Hezbollah would hit back in Lebanon, and the country would try to close the Strait of Hormuz, resulting in serious civilian casualties and devastating consequences on the global economy. Eventually, Saudi Arabia would be able to meet the global demand, but in the short term, the economy would suffer dramatically. All of Iran would rally behind their leader, strengthening an unpopular regime. As it stands, the country is increasingly against their leadership, but any attack would reverse this trend. The Syrian regime would also be boosted, with the two countries complaining about a plot against the Muslim world. Not to mention, that even with all of these consequences, the Israeli Air Force would only be able to delay a bomb, not stop the countries nuclear ambitions. It’s also possible that any attack will make Iran make the final decision to go ahead with producing a bomb, which is something they have not yet done. The military and leadership understands this, with ex-Mossad chiefs publicly claiming that any attack would be a bad idea, suggesting that Iran will not go ahead with plans to create a bomb.
In addition, the leadership of Iran is currently in a stage of transition, and maintaining the status quo until this is complete is probably the best option. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is currently believed to be sick, fighting some type of cancer. Nobody knows exactly what is wrong with him, but it is likely that a change in leadership could come at any moment. President Ahamdinejad is also going to depart soon, leaving at the end of his current term in June. Both of these changes could create an opening where diplomatic discussions will be more successful, meaning that waiting is probably the best solution.
Finally, outlines of a deal between Iran and the United States seem to be emerging. A formal agreement is unlikely, and I doubt that we will see Obama announce a secret deal that will change everything overnight, but it seems that both sides are happy to live with the current status quo. The West doesn’t want Iran to have a bomb, and Iran are still a few years away from creating one, so there is enough time left for other solutions. America would probably be happy living with an Iran in its current state, a few years away from a bomb, as long as Iran doesn’t actually go ahead and create one. The United States is currently unlikely to support an Israeli attack on Iran, and without the US, any Israeli attack will be less successful, and Israeli would definitely need US support in dealing with the aftermath.
As a result, I feel that in the current circumstances, an Israeli attack is unlikely. I think the real objective of Western policy is to maintain the status quo – an Iran a few years away from building a weapon, but not actually having one – until the country’s leadership changes. The evidence points to this, with the direct sabotage of the nuclear programme underway, with MI5, the CIA and Mossad disrupting progress through a series of assassinations and computer sabotage. Slowing down the nuclear clock is probably the best option. There is no guarantees that the new leadership will change course, but it gives diplomacy another chance, and with the Iranian people beginning to feel the force of Western sanctions, they might force successful discussions.
As it stands, any Israeli strike would not succeed in the long run, and the fallout would probably be disastrous for both Israel and the rest of the world. Therefore, unless Iran dramatically alters the status quo, suddenly rushing towards a nuclear weapon; withdrawing from the non-proliferation treaty and expelling all United Nations inspectors, I don’t believe a strike is likely.