Tensions in the Middle East are rising again. Top Israeli officials are asking the Western powers negotiating with Iran to abandon their efforts, a move that would effectively end the American-led dual-track approach of pressure and diplomacy to end the crisis. And there’s increased chatter of an Israeli attack this fall before U.S. elections, complete with warnings by Israel for its citizens to stock up on gas masks.
The heightened possibility of an Israeli attack prompted yet another former top Israeli security official to add his voice to the growing public chorus of such figures opposing an attack. Lt.-Col. (ret) Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, formerly the army chief-of-staff, said in an interview:
We will still have the option [of striking Iran] even after the elections in America and therefore we shouldn’t rush — we shouldn’t present it as though it must happen in the autumn, as I read in the papers. It would take a lot of courage to decide to attack Iran in the autumn…
I assume that the decision makers have the same information as the heads of the security establishment… [and so] I ask myself how is it that the security officials and the politicians can arrive at such different conclusions? I have complete faith in the security officials and give a lot of weight to their opinion.
Right-wingers in Israel and the U.S. have questioned the U.S.’s willingness to attack Iran, despite the fact that President Obama has vowed again and again to keep all options on the table to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. Lipkin-Shahak, for his part, said, “I believe in the Americans.” He added, “I don’t understand why the political echelon doesn’t share the same intimacy with the Americans as the military and intelligence hierarchies do.”
Obama considers a potential Iranian nuclear weapon a threat to both the security of the U.S. and its allies in the region, as well as the nuclear non-proliferation regime. U.S., U.N. and Israeli intelligence estimates give the West time to pursue a dual-track approach of building international pressure and using diplomacy to resolve the crisis. Questions about the efficacy and potential consequences of a strike have led U.S. officials to declare that diplomacy is the “best and most permanent way” to resolve the crisis.