Talking Up an Israel-Iran War…Again

Here we go again.

Earlier this week, Robert Baer appeared on the provocative KPFK Los Angeles show Background Briefing, hosted by Ian Masters. It was there that he predicted that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is likely to ignite a war with Iran in the very near future.

He obviously won’t name many of his sources in Israel, the United States, and elsewhere, but the few he has named are all Israeli security figures who have publically warned that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are hell-bent on war.

[According to Baer] there is almost “near certainty” that Netanyahu is “planning an attack [on Iran] … and it will probably be in September before the vote on a Palestinian state. And he’s also hoping to draw the United States into the conflict”, Baer explained.

The Israeli air force would attack “Natanz and other nuclear facilities to degrade their capabilities. The Iranians will strike back where they can: Basra, Baghdad”, he said, and even Afghanistan. Then the United States would jump into the fight with attacks on Iranian targets. “Our special forces are already looking at Iranian targets in Iraq and across the border [in Iran] which we would strike. What we’re facing here is an escalation, rather than a planned out-and-out war. It’s a nightmare scenario. We don’t have enough troops in the Middle East to fight a war like that.” Baer added, “I think we are looking into the abyss”.

In the past I’ve mostly viewed this kind of talk as a sort of agitprop. Given the increasing pressure and isolation on the government of Israel from all quarters, it’s not unreasonable to think they might start to consider more radical moves. And concluding Israel would want the strongest US force possible in the region for potential backup makes good sense. We might not back them up in their attacks on Iran, but we most certainly would act to prevent Israel from being annihilated in the process.

Two immediate possibilities come to mind. First, this could just be an effort to try and get Mr. Netanyahu to show some of his cards with the hope of trying to limit his range of responses. Second, it could be a signal to Iran to coax them to resolve some of the ambiguities flowing from Ahmadinejad’s political situation. I think the usual suspects will pick up on and publicize this report and we’ll be better able to assess as more official statements start to flow.

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