The past week brought heightened discussion of a potential Israeli unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. But House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), appearing on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley this morning, agreed that an Israeli attack would “light the Middle East on Fire” and could be “a real problem for the national security interests of the United States.”
Rogers, commenting on Washington Post columnist David Ignatius’ report that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta believes “there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June,” told Crowley:
MIKE ROGERS: […] My argument is this is too important for us not to get this right. If Israel does a unilateral strike this could be a real problem for the national security interests of the United States.
CANDY CROWLEY: Well it lights the Middle East on fire basically.
Rogers defended diplomatic and economic efforts to persuade Iran to cooperate fully with U.N. nuclear inspectors:
ROGERS: [The sanctions] seem to be working. The financial pressure right now on Iran is devastating. […] It’s effecting every sector of their economy. […] Our argument is can we work with the Israelis on this and other programs to try to delay or stop this program by bringing Iran to the table. That to me is a better outcome than inflaming the Middle East.
Rogers is not alone in voicing misgivings about an Israeli unilateral attack. In January, George W. Bush’s CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden disclosed that the Bush administration concluded that attacking Iran “would guarantee that which we are trying to prevent — an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon.” Speaking last June, retired Israeli spy chief Meir Dagan warned that an Israeli attack on Iran was “the stupidest thing I have ever heard” and the fallout from such an attack would pose an “unbearable” security challenge. A recent Council on Foreign Relations report highlighted one of the immediate consequences of a military escalation with Iran: a sudden oil price shock (about $23 per barrel in the first days) following an Israeli strike.
Last week, retired Israeli Lt. Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak told The Independent that the IDF leadership doesn’t support military action at this point and Panetta told reporters, “Israel has indicated they are considering this, and we have indicated our concerns.”
Rogers’ worries about blowback from an Israeli strike may also be shared by Israel’s new air force chief, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel. The Associated Press reports that Eshel is “less enthusiastic about a possible attack on Iran” than outgoing air force chief Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan.