Next Stop is Tehran?

October 1, 2007 at 10:30 am | Posted in International Relations, Middle East | Leave a comment

A little while ago, Matthew Yglesias and Daniel Drezner were discussing whether the anticipated march towards attacking Iran had dissipated.  And over the weekend, Yglesias mentioned Don Van Natta’s article in the Times about Freedom’s Watch, the conservative group that is pushing hard for action against the Islamic Republic.

In their discussion, Drezner stressed that his hope was that nothing would happen vis-a-vis Iran until the next president comes into office.  That sounds reasonable, and others are saying the same thing, but I don’t think it’s likely to happen.  The reason: Israel.

I increasingly get the sense, from statements made by Israeli officials, and from occasional conversations with some of my former colleagues in the Israeli Government, that the Israelis see the Bush presidency as the window during which to deal with Iran – one way or another.  If diplomacy works, great.  If the Americans handle the problem, good.  But if neither approach is actually bearing fruit, while Iran continues to approach nuclear capability, many Israeli decision-makers won’t want to wait to see what the next American president feels like doing.  They know that the Bush Administration would be at least somewhat amenable to an Israeli operation, and although it’s the last thing Israel wants to have to do itself, they know that if they have to do it, they should do it before January 2009.

The White House is well aware of this.  And because this scenario is a pretty grim one, it may have the effect of actually forcing the Bush Administration to at least do something.  So I wouldn’t count on the next president being the one to make the decision.

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