Gates Pushing Back on Iran War Fever

Recently, we’ve seen a bit of a renewed outburst of Iran war fever. First, several powerful House Democrats signed a letter telling the Obama administration that any diplomatic approach to Iran had to produce results very quickly or else it should be abandoned in favor of punitive measures. Then Bibi Netanyahu told Obama that unless diplomacy produced results in a few months that Israel would strike away. And CFR Senior Fellow, Bush NSC veteran, and Iran-Contra crook Elliot Abrams tried to assure us that the Iranian people would welcome airstrikes.

Steve Clemons observes that Defense Secretary Robert Gates is offering some pushback:

Mr Gates said he does not expect Israel – which believes the US estimate for when Iran could develop a nuclear weapon is too sanguine – to take military action this year.

“I guess I would say I would be surprised…if they did act this year,” said Mr Gates.

As he was sworn in as the new Israeli prime minister this week, Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the greatest danger to Israel was Iran’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons. But asked whether Iran would cross a nuclear “red line” this year, Mr Gates said: “I don’t know, I would guess probably not”.

“I think we have more time than that. How much more time I don’t know,” said Mr Gates. “It is a year, two years, three years. It is somewhere in that window.”

Of course the question still arises of what happens if Gates’ assessment of Israeli intentions is wrong. Will the United States lean strongly against Israel launching an attack that could have a dire impact on American interests and will likely not do much beyond ensure that Iran develops a nuclear weapon in the near future? We have, in principle, a lot of leverage over Israeli policy. But at the same time, Israeli preferences speak very loudly on Capitol Hill.